Wild in the city: Dragonflies have entered the fray

·2-min read
 (Isabel Hardman)
(Isabel Hardman)

Dragonflies and damselflies are gradually starting to fly. They are curious insects, spending more of their lives as nymphs than in their bright and winged adult bodies.

The nymphs live underwater and have dull brown or green bodies with no wings. They shed their skins repeatedly until it is time to emerge into the air and for their wings to come out. Dragonflies are bigger, with their glassy wings held perpendicular to their chunky bodies. Damselflies are delicate, thin and fold their wings parallel to their bodies. Both have amusingly bulbous eyes.

 (Isabel Hardman)
(Isabel Hardman)

A striking dragonfly that should be on the wing soon is the emperor. The males are blue and the females green. It likes to patrol around the water where it lives, as well as along wooded areas. You will often see this species catching and carrying its prey of insects while flying.

A similar species that likes to move about its territory in a series of very officious straight lines is the southern hawker. Some dragonflies like the chalky blue broad-bodied chaser are possessive about the perches they frequent and will do mid-air battle with marauding dragons.

The most beautiful of the damselflies has a name that’s hard to forget: the beautiful demoiselle. With an iridescent blue or green body and black wings, it looks like it has dressed up for a dinner party. They flock together over streams and around the edges of rivers and ponds, and are often joined by the similarly striking banded demoiselle, which has large black spot on its lacy wings.

In the coming weeks they’ll start mating which leads to various bizarre rituals, including the males lowering the females into the water to deposit their eggs. The female is by then so exhausted that she needs the male to tug her back above the tension of the water. The beating of the male’s wings makes it look like a helicopter is hovering low over the surface of the water. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all air traffic were this beautiful?

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