Dragonflies have been on Earth an incredibly long time, way before the appearance of the first dinosaurs.
The air dances with a glorious diversity of dragonflies at this time of year. They can be found almost anywhere, but congregate in the greatest numbers and variety around wetlands. A walk by any pond or lake will allow you to enjoy the aerial acrobatics of these small predators.
Dragonflies have been on Earth an incredibly long time. Their ancestors were flying in the Carboniferous era, millions of years before the appearance of the first dinosaurs. Some of these were true insect giants. The air, saturated with much more oxygen than it is today, allowed them to grow to the size of crows!
One wonders how large their prey was then – flies the size of sparrows perhaps?
Modern dragonflies help control the profusion of biting flies that appear in the summer. They will sometimes ambush these flies as they torment large mammals – large mammals like us. I’ve cheered on dragonflies hunting deer flies orbiting my head. Once a dragonfly even used my shoulder as a perch to consume its prize.
Dragonfly larvae are equally effective predators. They patrol the waters of ponds, lakes and streams in search of other aquatic invertebrates, small fish and tadpoles. Jet propelled, they dart forward by shooting water out of their butts and they grab prey with fearsome extendable jaws.
Dragonflies have inspired some delightful folk beliefs. My aunt called them “darning needles” and warned that they would sew my mouth shut. Perhaps I talked too much as a child.
Dragonflies are obliging photographic subjects. Unlike butterflies that move in unpredictable patterns, dragonflies often return repeatedly to the same perch. There they pose, allowing a photographer ample time to set up and compose the shot. Dragonflies are so beautiful and so co-operative that memorable images are almost guaranteed.