Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Doodle Bugging

I was walking up to the front door today and noticed that I had a new little neighbor in the sandy patch near the front door. Mr. Ant Lion, or maybe Ms. Ant Lion, has moved into the neighborhood of the front steps under the shady umbrella of the oak tree.  For years, -years-, I never knew these creatures had any other name than "Doodle Bug".  But they do, and they are ant lions because they feed on ants which they trap in those soft sand funnels they build. Patiently, they wait at the bottom, covered in a very fine layer of sand... and when the hapless ant stumbles across the edge of the little hole, he disturbs a few grains of sand. The ant lion, or doodle bug, senses this. His body is covered with fine hairs which apparently are sensitive to the smallest disruption of the tiniest grain of sand. He waits and if the ant hasn't fallen in, or if he has begun a slide to the bottom but seems to be on his way to getting a foothold in the sand, and therefore out, the ant lion kicks up sand from the bottom, throwing sand at the ant until he dislodges it. The ant slides to the bottom, and the ant lion snatches it up. Yummy! But as kids, we didn't care about this interesting fact, and this clever little hunter beneath the sand. We liked holding the Doodle Bug because it walked backwards in our hands and tickled! Jo Ann, Donald Cumbee and myself spent hours under the edge of the house, hunting Doodle bugs. You didn't just scoop up any pocket of sand where you thought they were. That was no challenge.  We knew enough to know that the journey was often as much fun as the destination... So we took tiny sticks, or pine straws, and tried to trick the Doodle Bug into giving up it's hiding place. We tickled the edge of the sand, and when a small sand volcano erupted, we knew Doodle Bug was home, and we scooped him up. We collected several, held them in our hands until we grew tired of the tickling, and we let them go. Occasionally we would find a real ant, drop it into the jaws of death, and felt we'd re-imbursed the Doodle Bug for any inconvenience we'd caused him or her. I am sure there are lady Doodle Bugs too. One day I was Doodle Bugging all by myself and I had located a really deep funnel  - and was sure that the king of Doodle Bugs lived at the bottom. I followed all of the necessary steps to insure that Mr or Mrs Bug was at home. I disturbed the sand, and sure enough saw movement under the sand.  I didn't see the customary sand kicking however, and should have been more cautious... but living dangerously was all the rage when you were 7... so I scooped up the sand funnel and felt wiggly tickling in my palm and then out of the sand, erupting like some gigantic furry monster, up popped a giant trapdoor spider! He'd taken advantage of the empty funnel - or maybe he had eaten the occupant... From that day onward I never scooped the sand out of the funnels... I flicked sand in, and flicked sand out, and only when I saw the Doodle Bug did I pick it up...
Doodle Bugs are fun, and they are incredibly clever... When my kids were little showed them how to find Doodle Bugs... From there they went on to finding the brown crickets that lived deep in the grass... and from there they went on to stuffing a cricket up the nose of the defenseless neighbor... Oh well.


  1. Never heard of them but OMG can you send me some? Every year, I'm battling ants outside. TONS of them!!! They kill my grass, there's so many.
    I keep telling myself, at least they're not in the house, but knock on wood for that one.
    Love the story.
    Freaked me out about the spider though! :)

  2. I use to Doodle Bug with a broom straw. Never held them in my hands, just watched them throw the excess dirt back out. Interesting reading about them. Learned something I didn't know.

  3. I would send you some J but I think it is too cold there for them... The spider did more than freak me out! It scarred me for life! I can't stand them! We have Fire Ants here, too and they are some kind of nasty! Treat your ant mounds with Orthene if you can get it there... My dad used to take a shovel of one ant mound and drop it on another. And then take a shovel of that mound and take it to the first... they battled to death and it worked. He also fed them uncooked grits and that killed them too. Not because it swole them up when they ate them (but some did of course), but because when they expanded from the moisture in the ground, they were pretty well trapped... The ant battle worked best, and fastest.

    And Polly, I'm glad to have enlightened you! You ought to have held them, though... Tickle!

  4. Never knew you could make ants battle! I ahve used real corn meal ( not the mix) on top of ant beds. it works too. My husband danny was the first one to show me how to catch adoodle bug!

  5. These stories are the ones we need to share with our kids. They are the ones that they will never think to ask us to tell - but when we are no longer here, they will wonder - and they will know if we leave them for them to find... So share your memories of things like this. I love knowing more about you and your life because reading your memoirs re-awaken mine and I think it does the same for you.
    I love you!

  6. We used to love to watch daddy making war for the ants... They were fierce!