Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragonfly hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky. ~Dante Gabriel Rossetti
This year the butterflies were strangely absent. There was but a handful in my wildlife garden compared to other years. There were lots of bees and flies, and so many birds nesting. But the critter that was more abundant than usual were the dragons…dragon-flies that is.
We have several species that adorn the back gardens mainly, but this year there were so many more everywhere from the meadow, to the front gardens and all over the back gardens where there is a pond. You couldn’t look at a plant or move without seeing many dragons perching or flying. And I was so pleased to welcome them throughout the garden as they are a key predator in controlling mosquitoes. And did we have skeeters what with our wet spring and summer.
Dragonflies are insects belonging to the order Odonata. They have large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of transparent wings, and an elongated body. Dragons are similar to damselflies, but damselflies hold their wings against their bodies while at rest (see picture below) whereas dragons hold theirs away from, and perpendicular to their bodies when at rest.
Dragonflies are typically found around bodies of water such as lakes, ponds and streams because their larvae are aquatic. Even though they they have six legs, they cannot walk well which is why you usually see them flying or perching.
They are loved by birds, frogs, spiders, water bugs, and even other large dragonflies which is one reason they fly so fast and their larvae will deliver a painful bite.
I find dragonflies fascinating creatures and enjoy watching them in the garden. I have never seen their larvae in the pond, but I hope to watch more closely next spring for their emergence. I was planning to be involved in a Citizen Science project this summer called, Dragonfly Pond Watch. But my day job took up so much time I was rarely out in the garden. It is a wonderful project where you can help investigate the annual movements of 5 species of dragonflies in North America. It is one of the programs of the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership (MDP) that was formed by the United States, Mexico, and Canada. There are many other projects to participate in too. Right now folks are monitoring the migration of dragonflies. That must be a wonderful sight to see these beauties dancing on air.
And dragonflies have a rich history and folklore around the world:
- In Europe, dragonflies have often been seen as sinister. They were called such names as “devil’s darning needle” and “ear cutter”, which implies evil or injury.
- Swedish folklore says that the devil uses dragonflies to weigh people’s souls.
- In the Southern United States, there is a folk belief that dragonflies follow snakes around and stitch them back together if they are injured.
- For some Native American tribes they symbolize swiftness, activity and the winds of change.
- The Navajo say dragonflies symbolize pure water.
- And still other native tribes feel they symbolize illusions; the need to change and transform yourself.
- They have also been used in traditional medicine in Japan and China.
- In some parts of the world, like Indonesia, they are a food source.
- There is a legend that dragonflies were once dragons that were tricked to change form by the coyote.
If you have a pond or water feature in your garden or nearby, I hope dragonflies are visiting….
The Dragon-flyToday I saw the dragon-fly Come from the wells where he did lie. An inner impulse rent the veil Of his old husk: from head to tail Came out clear plates of sapphire mail. He dried his wings: like gauze they grew; Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew A living flash of light he flew.
Alfred Lord Tennyson
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