Myrmeleon alcestris

View the above photo record (by Ryan Tippett) in LacewingMAP here.

Myrmeleon alcestris

Banks, 1911


Size: Small (Wingspan around 44mm)

Myrmeleon alcestris is a very characteristic Myrmeleon owing to the black markings in the wings. The dark patches are especially conspicuous when the wings are folded at rest. This species also has a fairly distinctive abdomen pattern especially when seen from above.

Larvae: The larvae are small with relatively slender heads.

Myrmeleon alcestris – Near Carnarvon, Northern Cape
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Myrmeleon alcestris – Near Carnarvon, Northern Cape
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Myrmeleon alcestris – Near Carnarvon, Northern Cape
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Typical Myrmeleon larvae – Boknesstrand, Eastern Cape
Photo by Zenobia van Dyk


M. obscurus ocurrs in a wide variety of habitat types and has been recorded from most terrestrial biomes in South Africa.


Adults are most active during the summer months from October to April, but have been recorded throughout the year in the warmer parts of South Africa.

Frequently attracted to lights.

Members of the genus Myrmeleon are considered to be the most primitive antlions.

The larvae walk backwards and are typical pit-builders. The pits are frequently located out in the open.

Typical Myrmeleon pit-fall traps – Near Graaf-Reinet, Eastern Cape
Photo by Dewald du Plessis

Status and Distribution

Myrmeleon alcestris is common across its range. It is widespread in South Africa and is present in all provinces. The species extends into Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Distribution of Myrmeleon alcestris. Taken from the LacewingMAP database, November 2022.


Order: Neuroptera Family: Myrmeleontidae Subfamily: Myrmeleontinae Tribe: Myrmeleontini (Pit-trapping Antlions) Genus: Myrmeleon Species: alcestris

Myrmeleon alcestris – Near Cradock, Eastern Cape
Photo by Zenobia van Dyk

Further Resources

Virtual Museum (LacewingMAP > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name)


The use of photographs by Aletta Liebenberg, Dewald du Plessis and Zenobia van Dyk is acknowledged. This species text has benefited enormously from comments made by Mervyn Mansell on records he has identified in LacewingMAP. We acknowledge his important contribution.

Recommended citation format for this species text:

Tippett RM 2022. Myrmeleon alcestris. Biodiversity and Development Institute, Cape Town.
Available online at

Myrmeleon alcestrisDanielskuil, Northern Cape
Photo by Aletta Liebenberg
Ryan Tippett
Ryan Tippett
Ryan is an enthusiastic contributor to Citizen Science and has added many important and interesting records of fauna and flora. He has been a member of the Virtual Museum since 2014 and has currently submitted over 12,000 records. He is on the expert identification panel for the OdonataMAP project. Ryan is a well-qualified and experienced Field Guide, and Guide Training Instructor. He has spent the last 18 years in the guiding and tourism industries. Ryan loves imparting his passion and knowledge onto others, and it is this that drew him into guide training in particular. Something that he finds incredibly rewarding is seeing how people he's had the privilege of teaching have developed and gone on to greater things. His interests are diverse and include Dragonflies, Birding, Arachnids, Amphibians, wild flowers and succulents, free diving and experiencing big game on foot. With this range of interests, there is always likely be something special just around the corner!