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.