Dragons and Damsels

Frog Pond in Summer

It’s officially summer now, and the weather is summer hot, hot, hot. But if you go out in the morning, and stay in the shade, you can still have a great time walking around the Nature Preserve without melting. The Frog Pond is a favorite of all our visitors. No matter how quietly you try to approach, the little frogs will hear you and leap into the pond with a loud EEP!

Widow Skimmer

Sit on one of the swings for a while and watch for the dragons who live in the pond. The dragonflies, that is! Dragonflies start their lives as eggs in the pond, and hatch into little nymphs, which bear no resemblance at all to their adult form. A nymph looks like a little alien creature. It hasn’t grown its wings yet and has what looks like a crusty hump hanging onto its back. Dragonfly nymphs live in the water while they grow and develop into dragonflies. This portion of the dragonfly life cycle can take up to four years to complete, and if the nymph cycle is completed in the beginning of the wintertime, it will remain in the water until spring when it is warm enough to come out. Dragonfly nymphs live in ponds or marshy areas because the waters are calmer than in a stream or river. Sometimes they can be found in the calmer backwaters of rivers, too. Dragonfly nymphs may eat smaller dragonfly nymphs as they develop, and they love to eat little tadpoles in the spring.

Reelfoot Eastern Pondhawk - female

A dragonfly’s eyes have about 30,000 lenses and a dragonfly can see all the way around it, but they don’t see details very well. A human eye only has one lens and sees better than a dragonfly, but only to the front and side of them.

Halloween Pennant 2

A bee flaps its wings about 300 times per second, but a dragonfly flaps its wings at only about 30 beats per second. In fact, dragonflies have two sets of wings so they don’t have to beat them as much to fly. That sounds like dragonflies are slow, but just try to photograph one in flight, and you will learn how fast they really are!

Ebony Neon Damselfly Male

Walk on down into Little Huckleberry Creek, and you will find lots of Ebony Jewelwing damselflies flitting on the green leaves along the creek. The male’s tail glows bright blue-green in the sun. Dragonflies have much larger eyes than damselflies, with the eyes taking up most of the head as they wrap around from the side to the front of the face. The eyes of a damselfly are large, but there is always a gap of space between them. Dragonflies have bulkier bodies than damselflies, with a shorter, thicker appearance. Damselflies have a body made like the narrowest of twigs, whereas dragonflies have a bit of heft.

Ebony Neon Damselfly Female

The female Jewelwing is not so shiny, but she has small white dots on the tips of her wings. Both dragonflies and damselflies have two sets of wings, however they have different shapes. Dragonflies have hind wings that broaden at the base, and which makes them larger than the front set of wings. Damselflies have wings that are the same size and shape for both sets, and they also taper down as they join the body, becoming quite narrow as they connect.  Dragonflies hold their wings out perpendicular to their bodies when resting, like an airplane. Damselflies fold their wings up and hold them together across the top of their backs. We can always find fun new things to learn about nature at the Nature Preserve.