My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Dragonflies

Dragonflies have always been one of my favorite insects, for one thing, they are colorful, and for another, they eat mosquitoes. They are related to Damselflies, another of my favorite insects, for the same reasons. Damselflies and dragonflies are both classified in the order Odonata. They are also among the most ancient of creatures and, millions of years ago, included some of the largest flying invertebrates ever. Odonates are carnivorous in both nymph and adult forms, with a large appetite for smaller insects. In turn, they sometimes provide a meal for trout and other fish. Their lives are closely tied to fresh water as the nymphs are at least semi-aquatic. Dragonflies can be distinguished from damselflies by larger eyes, that usually touch, different shaped fore and hind wings which they hold horizontally when at rest and by their more powerful flight. Damselflies have similar shaped wings which they hold close to the body when resting. Both have been around for over 300 million years, enough time to evolve into many different species of each.

How do you tell them apart? Here’s the easy way, by how they hold their wings at rest. A damselfly folds its wings back over its body like this.

Damselfly

Dragonflies hold their wings out, in about the same positions as when in flight, like this.

Dragonfly

Both are my buddies while I am fly fishing or kayaking, I like having them around. I have always noticed a sharp drop off in the number of mosquitoes in the area whenever there are either damselflies or dragonflies in the area. When I am kayaking, they will often land on my boat and join me in a leisurely cruise down a river, or around a lake, at least for a while. I read that some species are very territorial and will chase others of their species away from their favored haunts.

I also read that there are over 300 species in North America, but I haven’t found a good source to help me identify them yet. For the time being, I just go by their colors, and I’ll post a few of the wide array of colors that dragonflies display, starting with a green dragonfly.

Green dragonfly

There are blue dragonflies.

Blue dragonfly

Notice that the blue one above has clear wings, here’s a different species of blue dragonfly that has barred wings.

Blue dragonfly with barred wings

You can also see that the head of the second one is dark, while the first one’s head is blue.

Blue dragonfly with blue and black bars

I have read that the males and females of the same species may be different colors, which makes identifying them even tougher. Maybe that accounts for some of the color variations I see.

Dark brown dragonfly

Then there are these brown ones that are slightly lighter, and with more markings on both their bodies and wings.

Chocolate brown dragonfly

And another.

Chocolate brown dragonfly

Then there are two variations on yellow.

Yellow dragonfly

And from the front.

Yellow dragonfly

 And another.

Yellow dragonfly

This one looks similar to the last, but it is nearly twice as large.

Very large yellow dragonfly

Then there are the red ones.

Red dragonfly

And another.

Red dragonfly

He’s so cute, he deserves another shot!

Red dragonfly

Damselflies can be cute too, and I don’t want to leave them out.

Green damselfly

But as beautiful as the green damselfly is, it is hard to beat this red dragonfly.

Red dragonfly

I think I recall reading that dragonfly nymphs feed on mosquito larva, I wouldn’t doubt that. I have seen dragonfly nymphs and they look ferocious, but I don’t have any pictures to show you. I do know that the adults love mosquitoes. You’ll see the dragonflies perched somewhere, usually in the sun, and they dart out to capture smaller flying insects, then return to the same perch to wait their next meal. They don’t feed on mosquitoes exclusively, but every little bit helps, and if they pick off a gnat or two, that’s OK by me as well. I do like having them around whether I am hiking, fishing or kayaking.

I thought that I had this all done and ready to post, but when I went for a walk this morning, I got an even better picture of a red dragonfly. It is very similar to the last one, but even better I think.

Red dragonfly

That’s it for now.

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3 responses

  1. Excellent photos !

    August 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    • Thank you!

      August 18, 2011 at 3:21 am

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