Monday, July 11, 2016

Ebony Jewelwing

This time of year these Ebony Jewelwings are thick in the shrubs along Bull Creek.  They flutter along in short flights, spending much of their time perching 1-4 feet off the ground.  Their short fluttering flights mimic butterflies in the shade and early on I netted a few before I figured it out.

  University of Florida
These Jewelwings, (Calopteryx maculata), are damselflies, readily identified by the way they hold their wings up and parallel to their body.  At rest you wouldn't know that they have two pair of wings.  They are odonates, relatives of their more athletically inclined cousins, the dragonflies.  In addition to the way they hold their wings, there are several distinguishing features.  Their eyes are separated by more than the width of a single eye and their body is slim, almost needle like.

Here's looking at you - REK
C. maculata prefers slow flowing, shaded wooded streams like Bull Creek where they eat mosquitoes as well as a wide range of other tiny prey and in turn are eaten by lots of other insects, birds and amphibians.  In their short two week life span they spend much of that time perched on shrubs.  They will hold a pose for several minutes if they aren't disturbed by a neighbor.  I have to photograph them from a distance for a side view as they seem to turn their head to face me when I get too close.

Female Ebony Jewelwing - REK
They exhibit sexual dimorphism, a significant difference in appearance between males and females.  The male is the flashy member, with black wings and a beautiful thin metallic blue abdomen.  The female has brown wings with a white spot at the tip and an almost black body.

Look for a stream side cluster of these Jewelwings and you can see their customary courting ritual.  "A perched female, when courted by a male, will accept his presence by rapidly opening and closing her wings. If she rejects him, however, she will open her wings and leave them extended."  NPS.Gov.

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