Wormlions prefer both fine and deep sand but only deep sand leads to better performance

Michael A. Bar-Ziv, Darar Bega, Aziz Subach, Inon Scharf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Wormlions are small fly larvae that dig pits in loose soil to trap their prey. Similar to other trap-building predators, like spiders and antlions, they depend on the habitat structure for successful trap construction and prey catch. We examined whether sites at which wormlions are present differ in sand depth and particle size from nearby sites, at which wormlions are absent. Next, in the laboratory we manipulated both sand depth and type (fine vs. coarse) to determine their joint effect on microhabitat preference, the size of the constructed pit, wormlion movement, and their latency to respond to prey. We expected better performance by wormlions in fine and deep sand, and the sand in wormlions' natural sites to be finer and deeper. However, in only partial agreement with our expectations, wormlion sites featured finer sand but not deeper sand. In the laboratory, wormlions preferred both fine and deep sand, and moved more in shallow and coarse sand, which we interpret as an attempt to relocate away from unfavorable conditions. However, only deep sand led to larger pits being constructed and to a faster response to prey. The preference for fine sand could, therefore, be related to other benefits that sand provides. Finally, body mass was a dominant factor, interacting with the preference for both deep and fine sand: deep over shallow sand was more favored by large wormlions and fine over coarse sand by smaller ones. Our results suggest that several factors should be incorporated when studying microhabitat selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-400
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Zoology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2019


  • Antlions
  • Habitat selection
  • Habitat structure
  • Substrate
  • Trap-building predators
  • Vermileo


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