Photos by Lisa Culp
Said to be the world’s fastest insects, they “can reach 19 to 38 mph.”
The twelve species shown below are the commonest ones at Somme.
Dragonflies are among our most ancient animals. Fossils showing dragonflies much like ours go back 300 million years, predating the dinosaurs by 100 million. Evolving over all this time, they have become very good at what they do. Somme is proud to be a living home to such treasures.
HOW TO ENJOY DRAGONFLIES
Just take a walk and look.
Binoculars that can focus close up are a great help, while they’re sitting still. On the wing, they’re so fast, you need pure eyes to follow them.
Just relax. Be happy. Let your eyes do what they want to do. Marvel.
Eastern amber wing - female.
Just an inch long. One of our smallest dragonflies. Said to fly in ways that make them
appear to be wasps, thereby scaring away some possible predators.
Shown here perching on prairie Indian plantain.
Eastern Amber Wing - male
In this species the male patrols a good egg-laying territory and waits for the females to come to him.
Shown here perching on Dudley's rush.
Ruby Meadowhawk - male
Eat deer flies and mosquitoes. Thus – the more meadowhawks, the better. Somme Prairie Grove has vastly fewer mosquitoes than Somme Woods. Is that because we have so many more dragonflies?
Ruby Meadowhawk - female (or young male)
Meadowhawks are “sit and wait” hunters. When they see prey, they dart out and grab it;
then they return to their perch to eat.
Spend most of their time flying. Use their wide back wings to glide.
Adults may congregate in swarms and may migrate.
Lisa finds that they typically perch down low in the grasses.
Shown here perching low in rattlesnake master.
Widow skimmer - female
Large and slow, making them easy to study.
In many dragonfly species the male guards the female as she lays her eggs.
In contrast, the males of this species “widow” the female after sex.
Widow skimmer - male
Also large and slow.
The male defends a large territory and spends a lot of time chasing other (large and slow) males back from the edges.
Twelve-spotted Skimmer - male
Each wing has three dark brown spots. The males also have ten white spots.
The large adults eat almost any soft-bodied flying insects
including mosquitos, flies, butterflies, moths, and mayflies.
Yes, dragonflies also eat the beauty of butterflies. If I were a delicate butterfly, would I rather be eaten by a dragonfly, a bird, or a spider? I think my last choice would be the spider. I don’t like the injection. But perhaps it would be less violent? Tough decisions. The world of nature is glorious and marvelous, but it's not "The Peaceable Kingdom.” Lots to ponder.
Photos by Lisa Culp
(We who love the Somme preserves deeply appreciate her Great Dedication and Skill.)
The info in these notes came from Lisa’s experiences and, mostly, random places on the Internet. If you know dragonfly ecology or other tidbits, please educate us by leaving comments here.