Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Dancing Dragonflies and Darting Damselflies


I had a little jaunt to Arran in August despite breaking my own rules of never visiting Scotland during midge season!! The midges weren't too bad and it was worth it for some amazing walking and some great wildlife. The video above is of a Golden Ringed dragonfly laying eggs - a fantastic sight and pretty amazing. A female dragonfly can lay hundreds of eggs and it does this over a period of days or weeks.

Having seen the female dragonfly laying eggs when I got home I had a look through some of my old photos of damsels and dragons as I have quite a selection! So lets take a step back from laying eggs. Pictured below is a pair of common blue damselflies mating. I love the heart shape they have formed! The male is actually gripping the back of the female's head with the bottom of his tail....hmmm!

Common Blue Damselflies mating
And I also have a picture of a pair of Black Darter's mating and below that is a pair of Emerald damselflies. It can be pretty busy during the summer months - make hay while the sun shines as the saying goes! In all of the pictures it is the female that is the more dull colour of the pair with the male being the brighter one.

Black Darter Dragonflies mating
Emerald damselflies mating
Once the dragons or damsels have mated and laid their eggs as shown in the video clip - out hatches the nymph. The nymphs can be quite ferocious little hunters and as they grow they moult up to 15 times before metamorphosing into an adult. They have a hinged jaw like the adults, which can shoot out to capture prey. (Please note the photos below of the nymphs were taken at a workshop and a bioblitz where experts had taken them out of the water and they were safely returned to their homes after they had identified them.)
Dragonfly nymph - species unknown
Once the dragonfly or damselfly is ready to emerge they crawl out of the water and cling onto a reed or other nearby vegetation. And then something pretty amazing happens as they crawl out of their skin....

Damselfly nymph emerging from its larval skin
Damselfly emerging
Dragonfly emerging from larval skin
Dragonfly emerging
Once the dragonfly has emerged from its skin (leaving behind the case that is known as an exuvia) they pump themselves up and redistribute their bodily fluids. The result being the wings and the body are expanded.

Newly emerged Black Darter before hardening and looking very fragile
The newly emerged dragonfly can take about 3 hours to harden and is pretty fragile at this stage. Eventually they are strong enough to spread their wings and fly away. Pretty amazing!

And to finish here are few more of my favourite damsel and dragon photos...I have quite a few as there is something that just draws me to these creatures and I just can't help photographing them. Get out there if you can before the summer is over to see if you can see some of these wonderful creatures!

Female Four Spotted Chaser
Large Red Damselfly
Southern Hawker Dragonfly
The most amazing eyes ever - male four spotted chaser
Golden Ringed Dragonfly

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