Swarm Report: 1/1/2017 – 5/19/17

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

I am so very behind on getting data from the Dragonfly Swarm Project shared here, but I wanted to get the data from this year so far up!  Here’s what I’ve gotten since the beginning of 2017:

USA:

Palm Springs, CA
Dewey Beach, DE
Jupiter, FL
Naples, FL
Okeechobee, FL
Sarasota, FL
Titusville, FL
Elizabeth City, NC
Hampton, VA
Virginia Beach, VA (x2)

Aruba:

Eagle Beach

Australia:

Adelaiade, South Australia
Moana, South Australia
Port Elliot, South Australia
Aspley, Victoria
Perth, Western Australia (x3)

Cambodia:

Kep

Mozambique:

Pemba, Cabo Delgado
Inhambane City, Inhambane Province

Panama:

Jaramillo, Chiriqui

Zimbabwe:

Dubbo

I will add the map soon!  I have a bad internet connection and am having a hard time getting Google Earth to work…

Australia hasn’t been very well represented in the last few years, but made a bit of a comeback on the western side of the country during their early fall.  The US sightings so far are fairly normal – a few sightings, mostly in the south – but there is an interesting data point in Delaware that suggests the dragonfly season may have started a bit earlier in the US this year.

I’m very excited to be able to add some new countries to my list!  Mozambique, Aruba, and Zimbabwe are all new, and the sighting in Cambodia is only the second sighting reported from that country.  I know part of this has to do with the fact that all my information and data forms are in English and I know there are far more sightings reported worldwide than I have reported to me, but I’m excited that the list of countries is now 38 strong.

If you love dragonflies, I hope you’ll be on the lookout for swarms again this year!  I’m recommitting myself to sharing data here this year and will also keep you updated as I work to prepare the first publication for this project!  I might have disappeared a bit over the last year, but the project is still going strong and I’m excited to start a new season of the Dragonfly Swarm Project.

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Have you seen a dragonfly swarm? I am tracking swarms so I can learn more about this interesting behavior.  If you see one, I’d love to hear from you!  Please visit my Report a Dragonfly Swarm page to fill out the official report form.  It only takes a few minutes! Thanks!

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Want more information? Visit my dragonfly swarm information page for my entire collection of posts about dragonfly swarms!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth
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Lestid Laying Eggs

A few weeks back, I was relaxing after a big science event I had hosted at the museum field station where I work and was taking some photos.  I was sitting on the platforms we have near the pond and watching green darners flying around, looking for some common whitetails and other early spring dragonflies.  I noticed a large spreadwing damselfly on a plant in a strange position and slowly approached so I could get a photo.  This is what I saw:

Spreadwing damselfly laying eggs

Spreadwing damselfly laying eggs

She was laying eggs!  You can see her egg laying tube, her ovipositor, protruding from her abdomen and stuck down into the plant in the photo.  It’s the black pointy bit just to the right of her abdomen just above the plant.  I watched for a little while and saw her pull her ovipositor out of the plant, move down a half a centimeter or so, and stick it back in several times.

Eventually I got distracted by a freshly emerged common whitetail and went over to take some photos of it.  When I went back over to the pond, the damselfly was gone. However, you could clearly see the evidence that she had been laying eggs inside the plant:

Punctures in the plant after the damselfly flew away

Punctures in the plant after the damselfly flew away

I’ve read about spreadwings laying their eggs in plants before, but hadn’t ever seen it. So exciting!  The nymphs that hatch inside plants eventually make their way to the water where they will spend the rest of their childhoods as long, relatively large and robust damselfly nymphs with funky mouthparts.  In this particular pond, few things get much bigger than the spreadwing nymphs, just the frogs, yellow-bellied sliders, and the three monster snapping turtles I saw sunning themselves last weekend.  Always good to know that a pond you regularly get into has multiple gigantic snapping turtles lurking in it…

I’ve got a long list of things I want to share, so hopefully I’ll be able to get another post up soon!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth.

Double

Today is the next to last day of my Photography 101 course, and the theme is “double.” Because I’ve been excited about photographing aquatic insects recently, I’ve got another photo from my aquatic setup for you:

lestid gills

Those are gills of a juvenile southern spreadwing damselfly.  A lot of people don’t know that dragonflies and damselflies actually spend most of their lives underwater as nymphs.  In fact, some dragonflies spend up to three years as nymphs, and then 4-5 weeks as adults on land.

As nymphs, damselflies get everything they need from their aquatic habitat, a pond in this case.  They eat small animals as prey, use cattails and other vegetation as shelter, and they get the oxygen they need from dissolved oxygen in the water.  The gills of damselflies help them breathe by improving their ability to absorb oxygen through their exoskeletons.  The gills massively expand the surface area of their exoskeleton, essentially adding another quarter or third of an exoskeleton to their bodies through which they can breathe.  The gills also improve their swimming, the way wearing flippers while snorkeling can help people swim.

However, damselflies lose gills all the time too.  The one in the photo above only had two of the three it should have when I saw it in the water.  Damselfly nymphs will sometimes fight each other and lose a gills.  Sometimes a predator will try to eat a nymph and get a mouthful of loose gills while the damselfly swims away.  While the gills do improve the lives of the damselflies and one missing its gills has a harder time getting oxygen or avoiding predators, they can survive with no gills at all.

I love the way damselfly gills look!  Another fascinating textured surface, compliments of insects.

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth.

Scale

Today’s Photography 101 topic is “scale” and I decided to take a trip to the pond after work today to take this shot:

 
The front half of what you can see in the photo represents about 50% of the territory of the strongest green darner dragonfly at this pond. It will fly back and forth across this area hundreds of times each day that it manages to keep control of the territory. It’s quite a large area for a 3 inch long insect to patrol and maintain control over. In fact, there’s a dragonfly in the photo to give you a sense of how big the space is relative to the insect. Can you find it? Trust me, it’s there, right there:

 
I’m always impressed by how huge the territory for some of the large dragonflies are. Insects never cease to amaze me.

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth.

Warmth

It has been unusually warm in North Carolina this week.  Things are blooming – in March – and several damselfly and one dragonfly species are out – in March – and I’ve seen several snakes and frogs – in March.  Some of these things are happening a full month early this year, so biological events I might never expect to see in March have been surprisingly visible.  The dragonflies and damselflies are making me particularly happy, so I’ve got another damselfly photo to share for today’s Photography 101 topic, warmth:

Spreadwing damselfly

Spreadwing damselfly

Dragonflies are warm weather insects by and large, so you really only see them when it’s warm enough to boost the water temps a bit and encourage the nymphs to emerge. It’s been sufficiently warm just long enough, in spite of how early it is, that damselflies are starting to make an appearance for the year.  I also like the warmer colors of the background of this photo, which I think contrasts nicely with the cooler colors of the damselfly and the cattail.

I am not 100% sure on the ID for the spreadwing damselfly above, but I believe it is a southern spreadwing.  They’re very common and smaller than most of the other spreadwings you might find in my county in North Carolina.  Unlike the damselfly I shared yesterday that is very easy to identify, the spreadwings, at least in the southeastern US, all look about the same and can be hard to identify without catching one and taking a close look at its undercarriage.  You can see in the photo where the spreadwings get their name though!  Most damselflies hold their wings pressed together over their backs at rest, but spreadwings hold them slightly apart.  These are also quite large damselflies and the family includes many of the largest species in the US.

It’s going to cool down a bit this weekend before the temperatures soar next week, so it will be interesting to see what impact the cooler weather has on the early spring!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth.

Natural World

The Photography 101 topic for today is “natural world,” which is perfect for me!  I went wandering today to find interesting things and this is my favorite shot:

fragile forktail

Fragile forktail

This is a fragile forktail, the first I’ve seen for the year.  They’ve been the first damselfly species I see in North Carolina each spring since I moved here, though they’re my second species this year.  El Nino at work most likely!

It’s easy to tell fragile forktails from other species.  See the exclamation point marking on the sides of the thorax?  That’s a good indication that you’re looking at a fragile forktail.  The males and females look very different too, so it’s very easy to tell them apart at a quick glance.  The males look like the one above, bright lime green and black, while the females are blue with black markings.  Damselflies can be hard to identify because so many look so similar, so it’s nice to come across the easy ones in the field!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth.

Bliss

“Bliss” is today’s Photography 101 topic, so this is my bliss:

damselfly

Dancer damselfly in Pima County, AZ

 
That’s my first odonate (dragonfly or damselfly) of 2016! Saw it recently in Arizona at the Desert Museum, so was at a place I loved when I saw it too. :)

Tomorrow’s my travel day, so we’ll see if I can manage to get a post up. If not, I’ll post again on Friday!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth.