"Dragonflying" is Taking Off
They’re not dragons, and they’re not flies, but however inaptly they’re named, the stunt pilots of the insect world are attention-getters. They wear flashy colors; dart at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour; boast ancestors that predate dinosaurs; mate in mid-air. Aggressive predators and carnivores, they’re out for blood – but not yours. What’s not to love?
Not much, a swelling fan base has decided, on national wildlife refuges and beyond. A crop of new field guides, mounting attendance at dragonfly festivals, and the spread of online dragonfly photos and other information all point one way: “People are fascinated with finding dragonflies and damselflies”− their biological cousins, says David True, refuge ranger at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. “It is a growing thing.”
Bruce Lund, with the Friends of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Nevada, agrees. He credits rising interest, in part, to two popular field guides by zoologist Dennis Paulson and state guides that help dragonfly enthusiasts identify their finds. Then there are the viewer-friendly habits of the insects themselves.
“People are attracted to these insects because they are big [compared to other insects], colorful, and active in daytime,” says Lund, who leads periodic refuge dragonfly tours. “They perch for long periods and keep returning to the same perches,” making them easier to photograph than butterflies, which stop less often and less predictably. Adults and children also like dragonflies’ fanciful names: Vivid Dancer, Sparkling Jewelwing, Furtive Forktail, Stygian Shadowdragon, Harlequin Darner, Dragonhunter, Ebony Boghaunter are some highlighted on a fact sheet at Aransas Refuge.
Natural Mosquito Controls
Some refuges known for their dragonflies include:
Did you know?
Dragonflies have huge compound eyes, which give them almost 360-degree vision.
Dragonflies develop a taste for meat early. As nymphs, they snack on water insects, worms, mosquito larvae and small fish.
When at rest, a dragonfly holds its wings open, either at right angles to its body or downward. A damselfly closes its wings, usually over its abdomen.
Dragonflies don’t have stingers and can’t harm you. Myths abound about dragonflies.
More about dragonflies:
Photos on Flickr