Friday, July 23, 2010

Damsels in Distress

Damselfly- Click to enlarge
Last weekend this beautiful pale damselfly insistently returned to one spot on a branch, giving me a chance to run after my camera and take a portrait.  From here, I will take you on the brief tour of how you could tentatively identify this beauty.
Click on the picture to enlarge it and you will notice the long thin transparent wings, held parallel to the body above the back, a characteristic of damselflies.
Dragonfly
Dragonflies hold their wings straight out, familiar to Master Naturalists as our emblem.  I will cover them in a future post.
Looking up damselflies on Bugguide brings up this page.  The bright blue damselfly in the middle was suggestive in shape with the wrong pattern.  It is a bluette, with wider bands of color, so I backed up to the broader category of narrow-winged damselflies or the pond damselflies.  The next to the last picture was a blue-ringed dancer, but the top of the thorax was too dark to match our friend.
Convinced I was close, I searched the site for "argia" and came up with over a hundred pictures.  The picture that jumped out was the male dusky dancer, Argia translata.  Notice the discussion below the picture with the input of experts and a link to the beautiful dusky dancer pictures by Greg Lasley.
Ebony Jewelwing
The most commonly encountered damselfly at Bull Mills is the
ebony jewelwing, Calopteryx maculata.  Pictured here by Dr. Joe Motto, it is found along the edges of the creek, fluttering deceptively in the shadows like a dark butterfly.  They are strictly predators, feeding on a wide variety of insects including -happily-  mosquitoes and gnats.
Females lay their eggs on water plants and the eggs hatch into larva (naiads) which then live on small aquatic insects. They go through incomplete metamorphosis, resembling small wingless adults.  When the naiads are fully grown, they emerge from the water, molt, and fly off to reproduce.

Information on damselflies in general is at cirrusimage.com,
Incredible variety of dragonflies and damselflies pictures are at Greg Lasley's web site.
Ebony jewelwing picture courtesy of Dr. Joe Motto.

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