The story of the ANTLION

Every place needs a superhero. That is how life goes. Ours is ANTLION.

He is as hard-working as an ant and makes everyone keep their own yards tidy and clean every corner of their place. As a decent Latvian, he follows the motto ‘my house is my castle’ and ‘you are your own master in your land’ so this place may not be chic, but it is neat and tidy. The people of this place take care of their houses, gardens, and surroundings.

Our superhero has the power of a lion as well. It is a superpower to drag into his web the good people who visit Bernāti, those who appreciate the harsh beauty of this place so they cannot forget it. Bernāti gets a place in their hearts, so some people move to live here permanently, while others only in the summer when it is warm and the sun shines bright.

The weather sometimes happens to be nasty, so the antlion also has adapted the features of pungency and poignancy. Our superhero is scoured and battered by the harsh winds of the sea. He keeps an eye on nature and local people. He can drag into his sandpit those who litter, make noise, and chaos and they might have problems getting out.

If you are kind and friendly to nature and people here, you will find your own happiness in Bernāti. If not other, then most definitely in lilacs!

What is “antlion”?

The antlion (Myrmeleontidae) is an insect belonging to the lacewing family.

There are about 2200 species of antlion in the world. So far, 3 species have been found in Latvia. The most common and the most abundant in Bernāti Forest is the Common Antlion (Myrmeleon formicarius). It got its name due to its larvae. They are known for the predatory habits of their larvae, which mostly dig pits to trap passing ants or other prey. The larvae of the common antlion for European species are the least demanding in terms of soil warming. It is enough for them if the sand warms up to 40 °C. The larva is one to one and a half centimetres long. The colour is brownish and depends on the place where it lives. The antlion in Bernāti is grey.

It is easiest to observe them in areas where dry, sandy, and sunny areas, for example, dunes, pine forest slopes and sandy roadsides. The easiest way to spot antlion is by the small craters formed in the sand. Antlion larvae has a strong body and with powerful movements, they throw sand out of the hole and prepare it as a trap for their prey.

When the crater seems ready, it hides in the sand and waits for the prey. If the larva senses that an insect has fallen into the hole and is trying to escape down the slope, it pelts the prey with sand grains to make it slip into the funnel, where it is grasped by the jaws and stunned to be eaten later. When the larva has grown, it burrows deeper into the sand and becomes encased in a silky cocoon. The transformation into an adult takes about 4 weeks, at which point the antlion leaves a funnel-shaped burrow. In our climate, this happens from late June to early August. Its body length reaches four centimetres and its wingspan is usually up to seven centimetres. The insect has 4 greyish, translucent wings with dark spots. The body is brownish. They resemble dragonflies but are clumsy fliers. The adult life span is very short – a few weeks, during this time it finds a mate of the opposite sex. Late in summer, the females lay eggs, which hatch into a larva (the larval stage is the longest in an antlion’s life). The full life cycle of an antlion is about 3 years long.

Creation of the ANTLION!

At the end of this summer, the NGO “Mēs Bernātiem” together with the sculptor Jānis Žīmants realized an idea as part of the project (“Wise villages”) where a large-scale sculpture made of oak was made and placed in the centre of Bernāti. It is not only an environmental object, but also an advertising stand for the new Bernāti website. A lively discussion ensued between the members and the artist as to what the sculpture could represent. There were lively discussions how it would have to look like. As a result, it was decided that it should describe one of the most important things in Bernāti – the richness of nature. And antlion with its special name and special features will represent Bernāti from now on. Everyone is welcome to see and take a photo of the new sculpture in Bernāti.

“Mēs Bernātiem” thanks the artist Jānis Žīmants for his attractive and artistic creation of the antlion!

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