Welcome Summer! – Autumn Meadowhawk Dragonfly
One thing I absolutely love about nature photography is the great names that folks have come up with for creatures such as dragonflies, birds, flowers, and the like. “Autumn Meadowhawk” ( Odonate Sympetrum vicinum) is the name of this fine fellow, who is a male and is about 1.3 inches in length. The female of this species is brownish and smaller. In the insect world, he is a predator, a hawk – a predator of the sky that strikes fear in the tiny hearts of other flying insects as does the hawk for other feathered friends. He is a handsome fellow, no doubt, with a red tail, a great round head, and red-tipped gossamer wings. But don’t let those wings fool you!
Dragonflies can move in six directions when flying: upward, downward, forward, back, and side to side. Depending upon the species, dragonflies can fly from 19-32 miles an hour. Pretty darn fast for a bug. They also have huge eyes that take up most of their large heads. I’ve read that they have 20,000-30,000 lenses in their compound eyes, with a huge field of vision. They are sight hunters, so this make sense – also, they need to avoid predatory birds. They use their six legs to capture prey on the wing and eat their prey while flying.
Autumn Meadowhawks are primarily “perchers,” meaning that they perch somewhere inconspicuous and then dart out to capture their prey. Consequently, they like still or slow moving bodies of water and streams with plenty of vegetation. Like all dragonflies, the Autumn Meadowhawk lives two lives – one as a nymph living and preying underwater (they begin their predatory habits upon emergence from their egg). In some species, the nymphs may live several years under water! When they are ready to emerge, the nymph climbs out of the water to molt and emerges as a dragonfly for the last – and shorter phase of their life in the summer. As adult dragonflies, the will Eat. Pray. Love – no. Sorry! They will eat, make love, lays eggs, and die when the cold weather comes.
I leave you with a lovely poem about the dragonfly by Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson:
The Dragon-fly by Alfred Lord TennysonToday I saw the dragon-fly Come from the wells where he did lie. An inner impulse rent the veil Of his old husk: from head to tail Came out clear plates of sapphire mail. He dried his wings: like gauze they grew; Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew A living flash of light he flew. In its eyes are mirrored far-off-mountains Dragonfly!
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