The pretty little dragonfly that swoops and flits around while you are walking the Presque Isle lagoon shoreline has been the subject of intrigue on every single continent where it is found. Worldwide, each civilization has developed its own unique meanings regarding the behavior and lifestyle of the dragonfly. In our part of the world, they have come to signify power and poise.
Think about this for a moment: the dragonfly’s agile flight and their ability to move in all six directions radiate an almost mystic sense of this power and poise. They can move at an amazing 40 miles an hour, hover like a helicopter, fly backwards like a hummingbird, fly straight up, down or to either side. They can also lift 15 times their own weight. Aren’t those mind-blowing facts? Now consider that they do this while flapping their wings a mere 30 times a second, while bees, mosquitoes and household flies need to flap their wings 600 to 1000 times a second.
Scientists tell us that insects with wings appeared on earth about 300 million years ago. It is interesting that the oldest fossil of flying insects was that of a dragonfly They also tell us there were many species. It seems that for the most part, their characteristics and size have remained constant. However, there was a time when a few species developed into enormous sizes. Some even had a wing span of over 2 ½ feet. It was only after the air became crowded with other predators that this huge form disappeared.
On Presque Isle, birding and butterflying have long been popular. With the advent of easy-to-use and understandable field guides about dragonflies combined with the common, colorful names like Neon Skimmer and Thornbush Dasher, the pursuit and study of this wonderful insect is beginning to take off. Many people now believe that the stunning jewel-like colors, wild and crazy looks, and their daredevil flying antics are reason enough to start watching these tremendous creatures.
The personal experience that sparked my interest in dragonflies was an early morning cup of coffee on the back of my boat. It was early one morning in late May, a few years back, and I was on my boat thinking it would be nice if I could find time to put a coat of wax on the hull. The air was still more than a bit crisp. I went inside the cabin and poured a steamy cup of coffee and brought it out into the back deck to find ways NOT to do too much work that day. I was sitting on a deck chair holding the steaming cup when the most beautiful blue dragonfly decided to keep me company and landed on the rim of my cup. He would walk all around the rim, but as far as I could tell, he didn’t like coffee. I later found that this was a Blue Dasher which is common throughout this area. I think that what he was doing was just enjoying the warmth from my coffee. He kept me company for over 15 minutes. What a perfect excuse for forgetting all about that waxing job.
The eyes of the dragonfly are one of its most amazing and awe inspiring features. Science
again tells us that almost 80% of the insect’s brain power is dedicated to its sight, and the fact that it can see in all 360 degrees around itself is quite awesome. The eye of a dragonfly has about 30,000 lenses, but they do not see detail very well.
I have always told my grandchildren, “Dragonflies are your friends.” I tell them that they are important predators that eat mosquitoes, bees, ants, wasps, and once in a while, butterflies. I remind them that dragonflies eat the bugs that bite people, so that is good. I also make sure they know that dragonflies do not bite or sting. I suggest that they should watch them carefully, and if they are lucky, they might see them prey on live insects in midair, snapping up small bugs with their mouth or grabbing bigger ones with their legs, then perching somewhere to devour them.
Speaking of this perching habit they have, my wife and I plus our whole extended family just got back from a long week at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. One warm afternoon my wife was sitting on the third floor deck reading a book when she felt something on her arm When she looked, a dragonfly was sitting on her arm chewing slowly on a large mosquito it had captured. She watched it for quite a while before it bid her goodbye and flew off. Nature sure can be interesting.
Over the years, many myths and legends have been passed from generation to generation about the dragonfly. Here are a few:
- In Italy – - if a dragonfly attends a funeral, it means the perpetuation of some greatness in the deceased will be passed to the eldest child.
- American Indian – - dragonflies were known as snake doctors because they could bring a dead snake back to life.
- In France and Germany in the old days, dragonflies would seek out bad children and sew their mouths together while they slept. They were known as the devil’s darning needles.
- In Australia – - they called it the witches’ animal, and claimed Satan sent it to earth to cause chaos and confusion.
- In Sweden – - folklore suggests that very small dragonflies came around to check for bad souls to convince those souls to be more forgiving. They also believed they would sneak up on children who told lies and adults who cursed or scolded and stitch their eyes and ears closed.
In truth, they are wonderful creatures that help us by eating the pests all of us would like to get rid of. More and more people are making dragonfly chasing a hobby each year. Like birders, some dragonfly chasers have begun to keep life lists, and treasure new finds. Presque Isle is a perfect place to begin this journey. Dragonflies need and love calm or slowly moving water, and we certainly have a lot of that on our park. Keep your eyes looking for these beauties and bring your camera along and get that great shot. Just make sure you send me a copy right here at “A Place for all Seasons.”
See you on the park!!
This post was written by admin