Thursday, October 4, 2012

Odonata

Since the weather is starting to cool, some types of insects are going to start dying off for the year, including dragonflies and damselflies. So, I think it's fitting to do a post showing off some of the ones I found this summer.

I'll be honest, I am brand new to dragonflies. I am a bird guy first and foremost, but all of nature intrigues me, and this includes dragonflies. I've always been interested in them, but never to the point where I could identify any of them. I decided to change that this summer. I started taking photos, and then I IDed them later. This took away any time restraints I ran into. Dragonflies don't like to stay in one place, nor do they normally allow a close approach for long, if at all. Photos just make it so much easier.

Anyway, on to some dragonflies and damselflies. Fair warning, I do not own a great zoom lens, so some of these aren't the best quality photos, but they get the point across.

A gorgeous male Widow Skimmer (AW Marion State Park, Pickaway County). These guys are large, attention grabbing, and all around awesome. Why the name widow? Well, there's two reasons I've seen. Most say that the name "widow" was acquired because this is the only dragonfly species where the male leaves the female when she lays her eggs. Most male dragonflies hang around the females during egg-laying. However, according to Bug Guide (www.bugguide.net), "The species name means sorrowful or mournful, perhaps because the wings of both male and female seem to be draped in mourning crepe." Whatever the reason, they are really common in Ohio, especially around lakes and ponds. They definitely aren't hard to miss, as some of the smaller damselflies are.

Speaking of small damselflies, this is a Blue-Fronted Dancer (AW Marion State Park, Pickaway County). This guy was small, but the blue caught my eye. B-F Dancers like to perch on and near the ground, which is where this guy was found (The log was about 8 inches above ground). As you can see, this guy has large eyes. In fact, their eyes allow a 300 degree field of vision. These guys, like all dragonflies and damselflies, are vicious predators, although they hardly seem it at first glance. 
Speaking of damselflies and dragonflies, you may wonder what the difference is. Well, there are a few. Dragonflies are generally larger, damselfly thoraxes are narrow and almost the same width as the abdomen, and a dragonfly's hind and forewings are differently shaped. However, there is an easy, easy way to immediately tell the difference between the two if they are perched. Compare the two photos above. As you can see, dragonflies perch with their wings out and open, while damselflies perch with their wings up and closed.

This is a Halloween Pennant. Lovely colors, aren't they? Well, that's why it's called the "Halloween" pennant. When you look at them out in the field, those wing markings look black a lot of times, although they are technically dark brown. So orange and black wings... very Halloweeny. As for "Pennant?" Well, as you can see here, they have a habit of perching atop reeds and other plants. When they do this, they sway in the breeze like a pennon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennon) would atop a pole. They were everywhere at AW Marion SP a few months ago along the dam.

This is an awkward angle, but after discussing this with a few other Odonata (the order of predatory insects that comprises the dragonflies and damselflies) aficionados, we all decided that it was indeed a Double-Striped Bluet, and not a Familiar Bluet. One helpful, and knowledgeable, Odonata-lover agreed "that it's a Double-striped. Everything fits. Narrow eyespots connected by occipital bar. Magnified you can see the double stripe on the left side, it also has a pale middorsal carina which only a couple of other eastern species have. There is a black line on top of segment 3 and the markings on S4-6 are arrow-shaped." Anyway, this guy was really tiny, but once again, the blue catches your eye as soon as you see him dart to another plant.
 
The last one for this post: an Orange Bluet. Now these guys were small. And on the day I took this photo at AW Marion State Park a few weeks ago, they were everywhere. Dozens and dozens.
Dragonflies and damselflies are a really cool part of spring, summer, and fall, and they're definitely worth a closer look by you nature lovers (if you don't already). People overlook insects and arachnids, but once you start looking closely at them, you find them to be tiny, awesome, beauties of nature.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic photographs. Very informative, as well!

    ReplyDelete