Plus, they eat mosquitos and gnats and other summer pests.
Dragonflies are therefore most welcome in my yard.
It's hard to try to follow them when they speed through the air, but every once in a while, one of them stops to rest. Nearly always, it will land on a stick or the tip of a flower. And, if I'm lucky, and I have my camera in hand, I can take a picture or two.
Here are a few, with some tentative identifications. (And for those of you who are wondering how I figure out who's who, I tend to use bugguide.net, and then Google images for confirmation.)
|Autumn meadow hawk (from last season)
|Twelve-spotted darner. This is a female, because there are only black spots.
|Another twelve-spotted darner. White spots mean it's a male.
|Male widow skimmer. Again, white spots tell me he's a he.
|Another view of the widow skimmer
|Common white tail. Taken in the harsh sunlight of a late summer afternoon, it's almost had to tell which is dragonfly and which is shadow.
|Harlequin darner. The eyes on this guy are almost creepy--like a cyborg.
I consider myself lucky to be able to see--and identify--some of these fascinating creatures. And doubly blessed when they stop long enough for me take a picture.
A few weeks ago, I saw a dragonfly dart by me and land a few feet away on one of the sticks that serve as a fence border for my garden. I had my zoom telephoto lens with me, so I stayed very still and started to snap a few pictures.
As I stood there, the ever-present gnats started their officially required orbit of my head. Even though they were annoying, I didn't swat them away, as I didn't want to startle my subject. Suddenly, the dragonfly took off, flew around my head, and landed back on his stick.
I took a few more pictures. He flew away, circled my head. And landed on the same stick. And then he did it again. Looking through my viewfinder, I could see his little mouthparts moving. An "aha!" moment: he was munching on my gnat cloud.
So I offered him a deal. I'll stay still and attract lunch. As long as he continued to pose for me.
Here are some of the photos of the modeling session with my friend the Harlequin darner. Some folks work for peanuts, some work for gnats.
|"Yes, I believe we have an understanding."
|Many dragonflies, like the Harlequin here, rest with the wings forward.
|When the wings are forward, they are also often flattened against each other--not that photogenic.
|Posing with all four wings in view, just after landing.
When I first started taking pictures, I didn't realize how many different species of dragonflies had come to visit my yard and garden. I had lumped them all into the generic "dragonfly" label. Getting up close and personal--through my camera lens--has allowed me to get to know these fascinating creatures even better.
They are quite welcome guests--and I'm happy to serve them mosquito hors d'oeuvres, gnat dinners and no-see-um desserts any time.