About DW

dragonfly woman

Hello from Chris Goforth, aka the Dragonfly Woman!  If you arrived here, you probably wanted to learn a little more about the crazy woman who tells strange stories and goes on and on about aquatic insect respiration on this blog.  I’d hate to disappoint, so here is everything you ever wanted to know about me or my blog condensed down into a few bullet points.

— I am a bona fide entomologist/scientist – I have an undergraduate degree in biology and a grad degree in entomology.  I don’t know whether that makes me seem any more reliable or trustworthy to my readers or not, but there it is.  I study aquatic insects, especially behavior and respiration in giant water bugs and dragonflies.  If you’ve spent any time here in the summer, you’ll know I also run a citizen science project called the Dragonfly Swarm Project.

— I am NOT a taxonomist, so I will get the occasional identification wrong.  If you happen to notice a mistake, please let me know (use that Contact Me button above).  It’s frustrating enough to read all the misinformation about insects online without being part of the problem.

— I cover a variety of topics, but everything is at least tangentially related to insects.  I had originally intended for this blog to be purely educational, but it’s evolved into more of a celebration of insects, scientifically, culturally, and personally.  I like it better this way.

— I am currently employed by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences as the manager of citizen science and I am stationed at the museum’s field station, Prairie Ridge.  I couldn’t have asked for a better job.

Everything I say on this blog is entirely my own opinion.  This is a personal blog and I take full responsibility for everything I write.

I am very excited to share my insect obsession with the world.   I hope you enjoy what I have to say!  And if you want to say hi, please leave a comment in one of my posts or click Contact Me at the top.  I’d love to hear from you!

Why Dragonfly  Woman? – check out my very first post to find out.

Christine L. Goforth
January 2016


Text copyright © C. L. Goforth


109 thoughts on “About DW

  1. This blog is fascinating reading and I’m truly not an insect person! Way to go. Would you be willing to contact me offline regarding dragonfly info needs for a Phoenix nature center?
    Thank you!

    • Thanks for the lovely comments! I’m glad you’re enjoying what I have to share. And I’d be more than happy to contact you regarding dragonfly info! Shall I use the e mail you provided with your comment?

    • Ha ha! You’ve already met me, Eric. I met you through Stephanie when she was here looking at the UofA and we talked several times while you were working on your book in the ento library/collection. I still have the origami dragonfly you gave me pinned to the bulletin board in my office. :) But we can certainly still meet if you wish! I haven’t seen you in ages.

      • Oh, dear, of COURSE! What was I thinking? Sure, let’s get together. I’m unemployed currently, so lots of time (ha, ha!).

  2. I just found out about your blog thru ResearchBlogs & Dave Munger. I’m not a lover of insects, but respect them (mightily!), and great to see another blog join the ResearchBlogs stable.

  3. Hi Christine!

    I’m very excited that I found your website. I’m a student of the history of design and am writing a paper on a piece of jewelry called “Dragonfly Woman” from 1897 by the great French jewelry designer Rene Lalique. Google ‘Dragonfly Woman corsage ornament’ and you will find an image of it. Probably you’ve even come across it already. The piece is full of symbolism and its reading is complex. Art Nouveau – the artistic movement of the turn-of-the-century – was characterized by a strong interest in nature in all its forms, as well as in other sources of inspiration, e.g. mythology. The ‘Dragonfly Woman’ is a conflation of dragonfly, woman and motives from classical mythology (chimera, amazon). It clearly speaks of the changing status of women at the time (a first wave of feminism took place at the fin-de-siecle) as well as of a fascination with insect life – it depicts a woman in metamorphosis.

    I am trying to find information about the significance of the dragonfly in the history of entomology – who were the people who collected and studied them first. When was the dragonfly named and by whom. And I am especially interested in the circumstances of and the reasoning behind the naming of the dragonfly larvae (nymph/naiad), which are taken from Greek mythology.

    Can you help me with any of this?

    I’m looking forward to hear from you.

    Very best,

    • How fun! I’ve never seen the Dragonfly Woman brooch, so thanks for pointing it out! It’s a very intriguing design. If you don’t mind, I’ll e mail you some of the information you want rather than putting it here. Is the e mail attached to your comment the best one to use? I can’t answer all of your questions, but I can answer some of them!

  4. Hi Christine.

    I’m working on a mystery short story. I’d like to include as a main part of the story any sort of appropriate cadaver insects (something other than flies), but from my research, the American Carrion Beetle is endangered, and never was, apparently, here in Arizona. The story must take place here. So I would like to know a resource for such insects that thrive in southern Arizona. I look forward to your email.

    Very sincerely,
    J.A. (I’m not J.A. Jance–ha.)

    • There are several species of carrion beetles in Arizona (and I know they’re here because I’ve collected them myself!), so you can still use them in your story if you wish. If you want exact species names, I can look them up in the University of Arizona insect collection for you. The traditional insects typically used by forensic entomologists also include flies (especially blow flies) and several beetle species including the dermestids (also known as carpet or hide beetles), the clerids (also known as the checkered beetles – especially the ham beetles), the staphylinids (rove beetles), and the histerids (hister beetles).

      • How exciting that we have carrion beetles here! Yes, I would like the species; particularly the ones in the southern Arizona/Tucson region. I have seen rove beetles, and I will certainly do some more research–you’ve given me good information, and I look forward to just that bit of additional species names. Thank you so much!!

        On another issue, I would like to write a short article on the giant mesquite bug. Is there a particular professor who is by chance studying them? I would like to contact him or her.

        Very sincerely,

        • Sure thing! It looks like we have 3 species here that might work for you. The first is Nicrophorus mexicana, which looks a lot like the americanus that’s endangered. It’s a good sized beetle, black with a bright orange-red stripe across its back. Thanatohilus truncatus is a bit smaller than the mexicana and is also all black with a mostly smooth back. Heterosilpha ramosa is a bit less common and is also all black, but it has a sort of ribbed texture along it’s back. Hope one of these works out for you! mexicana is definitely the most showy of the 3.

          As for mesquite bugs, I am not aware of any profs that work on them, but that doesn’t meant that no one does. I am in a different building than the rest of my dept, so I don’t always hear what everyone else is working on… You could ask our fabulous local bug expert though! I don’t post e mail addresses on my blog to prevent people being spammed, but you can find Carl by searching for the entomology department of the Univ. of AZ website, then clicking “Need an insect identified?” link on the right. Carl knows A LOT about Arizona’s insects and is the main outreach person for the department. He’s the person the receptionist refers all the insect questions to, and the person I ask when I want to know something myself. He’s the one that gave me the carrion beetle info, so he can probably help you out!

          Good luck with the stories!

          • Thank you so much. I found photos on the web now that I know what I’m looking for. Might have to actually make a trip to a print library to get the real scoop on these industrious creatures! Thanks for the tip on the entomology department’s point man. Thank you for serving the public by being a real-person resource–one can only get so much from a static web page.


  5. Christine,

    I just discovered your blog through Ted MacRae’s site. Well done! I have spent much time in southeastern AZ over the years–it is one my favorite places on the planet! I’ll be there again in July to give some talks for the American Tarantula Society and the Invertebrates in Education and Conservation conference. Maybe our paths will cross then.

    Keep up the good work and take care!


    • Thanks for visiting my blog! I’m glad you like what I have to offer. It’s an honor to hear that from someone who wrote one of my favorite insect books! (My dog recently ate my book, so I’ve actually bought two so far…) And what fun to give talks at a tarantula society! That’s got to be fun. I wasn’t even aware that we had such a conference nearby. Arizona never ceases to amaze me. If you happen to be in the Tucson area while you’re here for your conferences, let me know. I’d love to meet you!

  6. Hi Christine – Great website! I’m adding it to my bookmarks so I can check back regularly. I’m wondering if you might be able to point me in the direction of someone who is studying Odonates in the Midwest. I’m looking at the possibility of going back to grad school and would like to know which researchers/institutions are currently doing this kind of work?

    Thanks! MH

    • Glad you like my blog! Now, when you say Midwest, what are your boundaries? The person who comes immediately to mind is Ola Fincke at University of Oklahoma (I’ve never met her, but I like her work). John Abbott at Univ of Texas in Austin is supposed to be amazing – I have some friends and other acquaintances who’ve worked with him and can’t say enough good things about him. Otherwise, I recommend checking out the list of odonatologists on the Odonata Central website:


      Not everyone one the list is affiliated with a university, but it should get you started looking for people who might work out for you. Good luck!

  7. Do you know Doug Taron from the blog “Gossamer Tapestry?” He loves bugs also and is associated with a natural history museum in Chicago. He comes here once a year for butterfly conference. His link is on my blog. Good luck with your studies!

    • I do not know Doug Taron, but anyone who works at a natural history museum would be the sort of person I’d get along with. I’ll have to check his site out! Thanks for the suggestion!

  8. Wow, great bug blogging! I am shocked that I never have come across this one before!!!
    I too study insects, namely defensive behavior of social wasps (I also study a bird, but will get back to you in September when the first paper comes out, as my supervisor wants my research low-key).
    If you ever need any photos to illustrate your blog, please visit my flickr site at http://www.flickr.com/photos/deadmike
    I have a huge number of insect photos, but unfortunately not too many aquatics. I have shot insects in Florida, New York, BC and French Guiana. Feel free to use them as you need.
    I have added you to my favorites list and will check your blog often.

    • Thanks for the lovely compliments! I’m glad you like the blog. I do put quite a lot of work into it, so it’s nice to know that people are getting something out of it, though honestly I would do it even without any feedback.

      I love that you have a bi-organism approach to your research and don’t focus entirely on a single thing. Although my dissertation focuses entirely on giant water bugs, I intend to study a wide variety of aquatic insects when I’m finished with the doctorate. My second job also allows me to work with fish, algae, and zooplankton. I personally feel it makes me a more rounded scientist because I better understand the whole ecosystem than I would simply studying the water bugs.

      And thanks for the offer to use your photos! I’ll definitely take you up on the offer – your stuff is great! I love the dolichopodid.

      Best of luck with your research!

  9. I watched mating dragonflies trying to lay eggs on top of cars today and was fascinated by it. I watched for minutes and thought they were watching their own shadows as indicators of water, a bold assumption that had no scientific backup. A circulating single dragon above two cars seemed to tell me that he was protecting his territory. Tonight I googled “dragonfly car mate” and your website came up. I read your article dated July 20, 2009, exactly one year ago, that explains the science behind the mystery. Thanks so much and I am sure I will find more interesting things on your website! Keep up the good work!

    • I’m glad you were able to find the information you were looking for on my blog! And I’m also very pleased to hear that you found the behavior interesting enough to look it up. I think dragonflies are amazing to watch, so it’s always nice to hear that other people think the same thing.

  10. Hi Chris,
    So, I’ve been following along for a little while and finally decided to look at the about page. Hmmm, PhD student at the U? Giant Water Bugs? It couldn’t be, could it? It is! My very fabulous TA from Aquatic Ento (Fall 2003). Those pesky dragonflies are a bugger to catch aren’t they.

  11. I’m so glad I found your blog (through tags), it looks like the perfect place to learn more about dragonflies and for those who love bugs! I really like your blog’s design, too!

  12. Just saw a migratory swarm tonight in midtown Omaha NE. approx. 7:00 pm. Thousands and thousands of dragonflies for at least a block wide and flying very high in the sky. Heading due south. There were what looked like barn swallows or sparrows of some kind flying very high in the sky which first drew my attention. Several minutes later the dragonflies began to fly over. It lasted approx. 15 – 20 minutes. It was warm and muggy today. It is supposed to rain tomorrow. The dragonflies were large but not close enough for me to see the color etc. I googled dragonflies and found your website. Hope this helps! mj

  13. Christine,
    Just discovered your site today, and am having a fine time browsing through it. Noticed that you had a “Louisiana gap” in your swarm data, so I forwarded your information to Kelby Ouchley, in northern Louisiana, who got me interested in odes last year. You might want to contact him at rockybranch@centurytel.net. He’s a retired area manager for USF&WS.

  14. Oh my gosh – I love you, I love you, I love you – even though I don’t know you.

    My oldest son told me at age 3 he wanted to be an “entomologist” – and yes, he used that word. He’ll turn 11 this month, and I have had more bugs shoved under my nose (including a couple of memorable times when I was trying to take a relaxing bubble bath) then I care to count.

    I’ve worried about him, is he going to grow up to be the crazy bug guy? But you seem – NORMAL! There is HOPE for my kid! ;) Plus, you’re funny and obviously intelligent. I’m especially happy to find your tutorials. He’ll be getting a strainer for Christmas (no fancy nets for this kid), so he can catch his aquatic bugs. And I’ll be visiting often.

    • Wow, thanks! I’d like to think of myself as normal, but my insect-hating husband would probably disagree. :)

      I am thrilled to hear that you have a little entomologist in the making! I didn’t decide to become an entomologist until I was 14, but I haven’t ever considered anything else since that time. It’s a really great profession and the people are amazing to work with. And, if your son knows what he wants to do with his life before he goes off to college, it makes everything SO much easier. I wish him the best of luck – and all the fun in the world with his Christmas strainer!

  15. I currently work in a residential house for young men with developmental disabilities, and I have introduced several of the residents to the joys of netting dragonflies. On September 8th and September 12 we had the pleasure of observing a feeding swarm of Green Darners. It was not the first time I have observed this but for them it was a miracle and a joy to see so many dragonflies all in one place. 5 were caught and released without harm. For me, summer’s most sublime moments are just before it releases it’s hold on the landscape, when in the evening sunlight, the light catches on dragonfly wings, and the air seems liquid as masses of tiny flies flow together in currents, forming shoals through which the Green Darners soar.

  16. I feel as though I’ve not been paying attention during most of my 75 years, feeling that this is the first swarm of dragonflies I’ve ever seen even though living in a mostly rural state. How often do these occur? Do these insects come from the ground, trees, or bushes? As the younger set would exclaim, they are awesome!

    • The dragonfly swarms are pretty common, but any single person might only see 1 in his or her lifetime! You have to be in the right place at the right time (and paying attention!) to see a swarm, and apparently you finally were. The dragonflies are coming from the surrounding area, and they’re attracted to the little insects they like to eat. They’ll likely eat for the evening and then move on to a better area with more food. In the meantime, enjoy the fact that the dragonflies are ridding your yard of the nuisance bugs you might not want there!

  17. What an amazing blog and so much information! I absolutely love dragonflies. I’ve always been fascinated by their translucence. In Native American traditions, they symbolize illusion, which seems fitting.

  18. My name is Gama, My major field is Plant Protection. When I was a sophomore I got entomology subject. After read your blog I become more interest with entomology. Very nice blog :)

  19. Love this site! My 4 year old is OBSESSED with “diving beetles”. He looks for them, he studies them, and sometimes he is one. :) We have millipedes, hissing cockroaches, and a tarantula and are creating a bug-themed playroom with vintage bug info cards. I helped him navigate this site. He said, “I will help her look for water bugs. I am an expert. I find them everywhere!” So thank you and we look forward to more time with your site!

  20. Have always been facinated by dragonfly escapades, especially while fishing. In the Shenandoah Valley area, in the early fall, smallmouth bass jump out of the water to slap their tails at very blue dragonflies that hover in the mist above short falls and rapids. Interestingly the successful fish seldom eats the one knocked down, but somehow they all share in the game.

  21. I see enjoy your blog (even though I haven’t left comments). You make me interested in your world, what you need to do and how you do it. That is a wonderful gift to have. Thanks for taking time to write and put it out here for us to read and enjoy.


    • Aw, thank you so much! That’s so nice to hear. I always hope that people get something out of what I have to say, even if it just makes someone a little more curious about the world than they were before. I hope I can continue to keep you interested!

      By the way, my family is a beagle family (though I don’t currently own one) and I LOVE your dog photo! So cute.

      • Beagles are the greatest! Their love is much more subtle though. Our Vizsla just hangs on us for attention, but the beagle is the one that follows us from room to room and is always there with us.

        • My family’s beagles have always been pretty independent, but I loved ’em anyway. I’ll likely go back to beagles in the future because I enjoy their spunky (at times obnoxious) behaviors. I adore my rescue dog, but I miss having beagles too. Glad you love yours!

  22. I just witnessed a huge swarm of dragonflies. They are now slowly leaving but they started in one area for about 30 minutes. Krista told me to inform you so I did. Feel free to contact me

  23. Hello, I have just been given a link to your blog and I love Dragonflies. Your information is more from the biology side of life and my thoughts are from the art side of the dragonfly. I also was given a tour of ‘Sweet Water” and love that area. I was out there yesterday with my camera and found a lavender dragonfly. I took a picture and love it. You have a place that is so green and full of natural beauty so near. I will be spending time there when I come to Tucson. You are so lucky.

    • I’m so glad you like it! And thanks for leaving a comment so I could look at your awesome artwork! I absolutely love woodcuts and other relief prints, so I added your cicada hatching print to my Christmas wishlist hoping that someone would get it for me. I will likely buy it myself if no one gets it for me!

    • Sorry for the delayed response, but I’d be happy for you to paint my dragonflies! Would you be willing to send me a photo of a finished piece? Would love to see what you are able to do with them!

  24. A blogger who is an entomologist. That’s fantastic. I am a biology major and will be going to graduate school in the Fall in entomology (insect toxicology and physiology). What made you decide to become an entomologist?

    • Pretty simple: I liked bugs A LOT and realized I could do it as a career. Of course, I’m not currently working as an entomologist and work as an educator at a natural history museum, but I still get to do a lot of fun things with bugs! Which grad program are you going into? I wish you good luck!

      • That’s great. I have already been accepted to Ohio State University but am waiting to hear back from other schools and about funding before making my decision.

        • Mind if I ask where else you applied? Ohio State is a good school, so it’s not a bad place to end up if your other offers aren’t as good! Got a particular insect group you’re interested in? And what aspect of phsysiology/toxicology are you most interested in? I’m always excited to hear about people who are just starting their grad experiences, so I’m being nosy. :)

          • No problem. I’ve also applied to the University of Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Cornell, Penn State, and Michigan State. I am interested in studying how pests or beneficial interact with toxins on the molecular level. In pests, I am interested in furthering RNAi research in Coleoptera. RNAi has potential in transgenic but dsRNA is not systemic in most insect orders. Basically, I am interested in studying how to amplify gene silencing in beetle pests. While pests can upregulate certain metabolic proteins in response to toxins and thereby become resistant, honeybees do not as readily upregulate their cuticular proteins in response to toxins. We do not know though how bees respond to xenobiotics in nature. All studies to date have been in lab settings. There is a prof at OSU who is trying to understand the way bees interact with toxins in natural settings.

  25. Yes. Roald Dahl is my absolute favorite author. He was an amazing short story writer too. So dark and funny all at once. My favorite short stories are Lamb to the Slaughter and Man From the South. My blog explores English and French classics. When I graduate from college, I want to keep up with French. I’ve been learning French since I was 6, so I certainly don’t want to forget it. And I want to introduce French literature to the non-Francophone world. I haven’t read Shel Silverstein though. Thanks for the recommendation.

  26. Hello, Marlene Bachicha-Roberts here, I finally finished my dragonfly painting. I ended up using my specimen I collected in the yard , but your photos helped me identify my dragonfly. Your photos also helped with color information. I will try to post a photo on your face book page.Thank you, Marlene

  27. I googled to find out the difference between a dragonfly and a damselfly and found your blog. I love it! The information is interesting and informative and your passion for your work is evident. I will be visiting again.

  28. Christine,
    I will try to make this as brief as possible, ok? In August 2012 my nephew and my sister’s son David, age 32, died from a heroin overdose. It was a tragedy in every sense of the word.
    When my sister went thru his things she found a short story for his son, who was 4 when Dave died. It was about a dragonfly family, (I don’t have it, I’m going to get it from my sister) it was beautifully written, almost like a published author, Dave was a scholar but very intelligent nonetheless. So the story was about the baby dragonfly learning about life, his Dad was teaching him. About growing and eating and flying etc… I don’t exactly remember the story verbatim but he explained death. And in the end the Dad left to fie. I don’t think dragonflys live very long. Anyway it made all of us cry, he was thinking about Max, his son, and his own mortality, almost a self-prophecy.
    Since he died, I crazy miss him, we were very close, in a way that we could sit together just talking but we really didn’t need to we just got each other. It’s hard to explain. Anyway, dragonflies come in my yard, they never do, I am fascinated with them, I’ve been exposed to information and myths about them, I don’t think it is a coincidence I am sure you think I’m a nut, after all you are a scientist. I see them all the time now and for me it had been life changing.
    I just wanted to tell you the story and share our experience. I found the symbolism of dragonflys and even that information was almost exactly what David was like when he was alive. Your blog is wonderful and it looks like you are thought of kindly and very respected in your given field.
    Thank you on advance for giving you this moment in time.

    Dana Ann

    • You are not the first person who has told me a story like this or that you’ve come to associate dragonflies with the passing of a loved one. It’s not uncommon for people to start noticing dragonflies more after a death than they did before and a lot of people tend to take them as spiritual signs of some sort or another. I definitely don’t think that you’re crazy, and you know, I had a similar experience myself after my father died last year. My dad was the one who really encouraged my love of dragonflies as a kid and he drove me all over to collect them, so I’ve always associated them with him. When he died and my sister and I were cleaning out his house, we were dumping a bunch of stuff in the dumpster we had in his driveway and I looked up and noticed a little swarm of dragonflies over the grass. I’d never seen any dragonflies in my dad’s yard (and I would have noticed because I’m always looking out for them!), and there they were, 8 or 10 of them flying around over his front lawn. When I got back home to North Carolina, I was unpacking the the shipping crate containing the things I’d brought home with me and I heard a noise up near the ceiling. It was a dragonfly, fluttering around inside the crate. It sat there for quite some time, close to an hour, as I hauled out boxes and furniture, and it really got me thinking about all of these stories people have told me about dragonflies after deaths. Now, I’ll admit that, as a scientist, I don’t personally put a lot of stock in the idea of dragonflies representing people in the afterlife or any similar notions because I’m just not wired that way. However, the presence of the dragonflies really struck me, and I could suddenly see why all of these people had written me these sad tales of loved ones passing and how the dragonflies had helped them through their grief because it happened to ME! I personally took comfort in the dragonflies I saw during that horrible time, and now I completely understand why they mean so much to people who have suffered similar losses.

      So this is what I say to people with these sorts of stories: if the dragonflies give you any sort of comfort, if they make you feel closer to your nephew in some way or reassure you that life will go on after his tragic loss, then take advantage of their presence. I might be a scientist, but I’m also not arrogant enough to think that I know everything. Who’s to say that there’s NOT something in the idea that dragonflies represent lost loved ones in some way? I’m certainly not going to tell you that you’re wrong about anything that you’re thinking or feeling. I only hope that you’ll move on past this episode in your life and find a way to be happy. If the dragonflies help you do that, then more power to them.

  29. I have just photographed a dragon fly that I’ve never seen before. Can you give me an ident if I send you the picture?

  30. I am Lasanthi. University student from Sri Lanka. I have great interest in Entamology and should be thankful to you for sharing these information with world.

  31. I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog (I’m at work now) in Madison, WI.
    I saw a small swarm of dragonflies a few hours ago and I searched ‘dragonfly swarms’ – and here I am. We had a long hot dry period and then a lot of rain two days ago. In mid July I was near L Michigan in Milwaukee and there were tens of thousands dragonflies, Green Darners I’m pretty darn :) sure.
    It was an amazing experience. Thanks for your blog. Maybe I can share some photos with you sometime.

    • So glad you enjoyed the swarm! I think they’re rather magical. And if you ever do want to share some photos, just let me know! Would love to see them. You can either post photos to Flickr or some other online site and send me a link here or you can send them to me at thedragonflywoman at outlook dot com.

      Here’s hoping you’ll see many more swarms! It’s that time of year in your area, so you may be lucky enough to see more.

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