Dragonfly – My Garden Friend

garden dragonfly
flitting by my weary head
now I want to smile 
Haiku Hank
I share Haiku Hank’s thoughts about dragonflies. Summer at the Arboretum is obviously all about the flowers and walks through the trails. For me, summer is also about dragonfly arrival, especially in the Legacy and Marder Gardens.They flit just ahead of me as I walk, their black wings and blue or green bodies alighting on the buckbrush that lines the trails. They motivated me to find out more about them. Firstly, there are actually dragonflies and damselflies. My flying friends in Legacy and Marder are damselflies, known as Calopteryx maculata, Ebony Jewelwing. Damsels have a very slim body, that is longer than the wings, and eyes which are spread a bit far apart. Dragonflies have a much larger, sturdier body which is needed to support their large wings, and their eyes are nearly touching. Damselflies flit and dragonflies use their wings for fast flight that changes directions often and quickly. Some research into Kansas species led me to the Kansas School Naturalist, published by the Department of Biology at Emporia State University and to the Dragonfly Society of the Americas. They have identified 40 species of damselflies and over 80 species of dragonflies in Kansas. When flying, their quick movements, make it a challenge to identify them. If you catch them resting, take a photo and check out one of the sources listed above. Last week, a dragonfly stopped long enough for me to get a good look at it – she was an Eastern Pondhawk with bright green head and thorax. Males have a powder blue head and thorax. She was definitely a dragonfly and not a damsel – hefty body and strong wings. Both damsels and dragons share life cycle and habits. Eggs are laid around water, and they spend most of their life as larva, called naiads, in

water. They may live several years in the water as naiads before emerging and living for a few months as adults. No wonder they seem happy, finally getting to fly around. They have voracious appetites, both as naiads and as adults. Naiads eat mosquito larvae, tadpoles, small fish and other insects. As adults, they eat flying insects, particularly midges and mosquitoes, but may also eat butterflies, moths and smaller dragonflies. They are so quick, and their mouths are fairly large, they easily catch flying insects, eating them while still in flight, or possibly while resting on a plant. Some people with insect phobias, may assume they bite, however, they are harmless to people. It may seem like they could hit you as they fly by, but their very large eyes give them great eyesight and their agility prevents most from running into you. If you’re not interested in the insect, you may be interested in hunting for fossils. Because they have always lived near water, many specimen have been preserved as fossils. If you want to stay connected, of course, there is a Dragonfly ID app under development from the Dragonfly Society of the Americas.

Karen Kerkhoff