Dragonflies Aplenty

I’ve always been fascinated with dragonflies — their often bright coloration, their way of darting about when flying, their large size for an insect. So I was delighted to get photos of two specimens on today’s hike — one on the Overlook Trail and another on the Montini Preserve.

dragonfly1The first one I saw was this Flame Skimmer (Libellula saturata), perched in a dead bush. I stayed on the trail and used my 30x camera zoom to get in close. The lacy wings are particularly beautiful in full size (click on the image).

Dragonflies are actually quite ancient. According to Wikipedia, fossils have been found from 325 million years ago. They were much, much bigger back then, with wingspans of up to nearly 30 inches. They are capable of four different styles of flight, which allows them to fly in six directions: upward, downward, forward, backward, to the left, and to the right.

dragonfly2I then encountered this Bison snaketail (Ophiogomphus bison) sitting on the Holstein Hill trail on the Montini Preserve, where it crossses the meadow at the top of the hill.

Dragonfly feeding habits? According to Wikipedia: “They are almost exclusively carnivorous, eating a wide variety of insects ranging from small midges and mosquitoes to butterflies, moths, damselflies and smaller dragonflies. A large prey item is subdued by being bitten on the head and is carried by the legs to a perch. Here the wings are discarded and the prey usually ingested head first. A dragonfly may consume as much as a fifth of its body weight in prey per day.”

Dragonflies have inspired a lot of art, from Tiffany stained glass lamp designs to Haiku, such as this poem by Matsuo Basho:

Crimson pepper pod
add two pairs of wings, and look
darting dragonfly

May you see a dragonfly or two the next time you hike the trails. You will be glad you did.

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