Aerial Dancers

July 17, 2015

Life on the Lake, entry #4

Ever since I started working on Bauneg Beg Lake, in Southern Maine, I have become acutely aware of how many damselflies and dragonflies create a home on the lake. I hardly ever paid attention to them as a kid, because well they weren’t that fun to play with or catch (like ladybugs or fireflies) and they didn’t bite or sting (like yellow jackets or bees) so when they flew by, I went about my day. But down here at the lake, there’s hardly a day that goes by when one of these winged creatures doesn’t land on you or near you. So they’ve become a sort of fascination for me.

dragonfly vs. damselfly

As it turns out, the dragonfly and the damselfly are two different species entirely. The damselfly has a smaller, more slender body (hence the name damsel I suppose) and when they are not flying, their wings lay by their sides. A dragonfly however, has a thicker body and their wings are unfolded and stretched out when not in flight. There are two pictures below in case you’re like me and need visuals.

These two insects, however, are very similar in their life cycles. They both lay their eggs in bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers. The larvae live there for a year or more before morphing into their adult form, almost overnight. They are predators that consume other insects, such as mosquitoes. (Which means they are our friends, not enemies!) The damselflies usually fall prey to bats and birds, while their young fall prey to frogs, fish, turtles, and other insects.

dragon-damsel

Like dragonflies, damselflies come in a variety of colors. Most of the ones I’ve encountered are bright and vividly colored. Blues, oranges, yellows, greens, and purples adorn the backs of many damselflies. Their coloring is hard to miss out on our docks. These beautiful fliers are quite interesting to watch on a sunny day; flying in and out among the grasses and wooden boards. They almost look like planes doing tricks for an audience. I wonder if that’s where the pilots learned their techniques, by watching these aerial dancers.

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