I’ve been sick the last several days and I’m not up to writing a whole Friday 5 blog post today, but I still wanted to get SOMETHING up today. So, I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a story about this dragonfly:
That’s a blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) and it is a largely unremarkable dragonfly inasmuch as it’s incredibly common in the US. However, the particular blue dasher in the photo was a part of something exciting and stands out in my memory as being wonderfully interesting. Allow me to elaborate.
Last summer, I attended Bug Shot 2014 on Sapelo Island in Georgia. It was, as on past trips, a great weekend full of insect nerdery, endless photography, and a lot of great conversations with good people. I really love attending Bug Shot as the people there are my kind of people and we have this one huge thing in common: a deep and pervasive love for photographing insects. However, because I’d been twice already and was attending after a rather brutal week at work, I was exhausted and skipped a few of the sessions on the last day to get a little time to myself. I wandered over to the pond to look for dragonflies and attempt to get some photos of the many whirligig beetles on the surface.
Now, Sapelo Island has some dangerous things you need to look out for, and alligators are among them. I adore alligators. They scare me and I give them a ton of respect when I see them – I have zero desire to get close to them! – but I really love them. They are just so ancient and powerful that it’s hard not to love them. When I heard there were several alligators in the pond on Sapelo, I had to go looking for them. I failed to see them most of the second day, but I finally saw the two adults out in the pond on that last day and was thrilled. So, imagine my excitement when I was photographing that unremarkable dragonfly at a different area of the pond 10 minutes later and noticed a small, juvenile alligator swimming by, just a few feet from where I was standing on shore.
I grinned as I watched the alligator swimming. I pointed it out to my friend Suzanne from Buglady Consulting, who had wandered over to see what I was doing, and we watched it swimming in the clear water together. Then, all of a sudden, it burst out of the water…
ate the dragonfly in the photo above! One moment the dragonfly was there and the next it was in the belly of an alligator! Suzanne and I both yelled, “Whoa!!!” and started excitedly asking one another if we’d seen really just seen what we thought we did. If I had been alone, I wouldn’t have been convinced that the alligator had actually swallowed the dragonfly, that it had just scared it off, but Suzanne confirmed that we had, in fact, just seen a 3 foot long alligator launch itself out of the water, snag a dragonfly from a perch two feet above the water line, and swim quickly away, hidden by a plume of mud the quick motion had stirred up. Coolest. Thing. EVER!
As much as I love about and learn at Bug Shot every time I’ve attended, I suspect that one observation is going to stand out in my mind as the very best thing I’ll ever experience at Bug Shot. It represented new information for me: that alligators will occasionally eat dragonflies, even if they’re a couple of feet above the water line, which means that dragonflies are a significant enough food source to merit the speed and power it requires for an alligator to catch one. It was fascinating to watch two ancient creatures interact, alligator and dragonfly, and see just how fast and powerful alligators really are.
I just wish I’d gotten a photo of it…