Flight of Dragonflies

        paddle-tailed darnerAs young kids, my honey and I were both drawn to water like metal to a magnet. Probably you were, too. Our hot summer days were spent by ponds, rivers and marshes, the usual haunts of Dragonflies. We are still enjoying seeing beautiful Dragonflies of many colors this summer. Dragonflies are usually spotted near swampy, marshy areas. You may not see them on an overcast day because they are cold-blooded. If the sun’s out, you can expect to see dozens of them near water. Most of a Dragonfly’s life is spent in the nymph form, beneath the water catching small aquatic prey for food. Clean lakes and streams that haven’t been stocked with fish is the best place to find them, because fish eat the nymphs. The larval stage of Dragonflies may last as long as five years, or as short as two months. When it is ready to metamorphose into an adult, it climbs out of the water, exposes itself to air, begins breathing (which makes the skin split), shucks off the old skin, and emerges into the air with outstretched, iridescent wings, looking like gems sparkling in the sunlight.

        The adult life cycle of Dragonflies consists of hunting and then breeding to ensure a new cycle will begin. When you watch the erratic flight pattern of Dragonflies darting this way and that way in the air, keep in mind they are sweeping the air of insects. They are fierce predators. The rule - anything smaller than a Dragonfly is on the menu! I remember way back when we were little kids we were told never ever tell a lie or a Dragonfly would sew your mouth shut. This type of threat haunts the thoughts of young children, when playing outdoors, for children don’t know when adults are telling the truth or pulling your leg.

        In ages past, Dragonflies had a wingspan of 2 ½ feet and were larger than most of today’s birds. They have been around more than 300 million years. They are older than Tyrannosaurus Rex (67 M), and Crocodiles (200 M). During the summer months, when you are around water fishing, feeding the ducks, or just enjoying the outdoors, watch for the ‘flight of Dragonflies’.

        Carol Davis is our featured Dragonfly photographer this week. If you have questions about birding in southern Utah, General Meetings and Field Trip activities of the Red Cliffs Audubon, call Marilyn Davis at 435 673-0996.


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