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.

Treasure – Close Up!

Today’s Photography 101 theme: “treasure” and close-ups.  I was going to post some very close up photos of insects I found in the pond yesterday, my favorite “treasures” to go hunting for, but I got distracted.  I went to set up my tank this morning so I could start taking photos of them when I noticed that the damselfly from yesterday had just molted, moments before!  So, my “treasure” photos aren’t insects from the pond as planned.  Instead, they represent a treasured moment, the sort of serendipitous moments I come across now and then when I get to see and photograph something ephemeral and special.  This damselfly, an ebony jewelwing, had been free from its old exoskeleton for just a few minutes and was still in the process of stretching out and hardening the new exoskeleton:

Ebony jewelwing , freshly molted

Ebony jewelwing , freshly molted

And an inch away, lying limp, was its old exoskeleton:

Ebony jewelwing exuvia

Shed exoskeleton

For those of you who are new to my blog, those little white strings are part of the respiratory system of the previous stage.  When insects molt, they shed their entire exoskeleton, which includes part of their digestive, reproductive, and respiratory tracts.  Those white bits were pulled out of the little series of tubes that insects use to breathe and the freshly molted nymph walked away with a brand new respiratory lining.

As often as I take photos of aquatic insects, I rarely get to see them molt, so I was thrilled I got to see at least part of this shed!  Apparently something went wrong as this damselfly was building its new exoskeleton though.  It only had two of three gills when I scooped it out of the stream. After it molted, it was down to one, but I got to see the gill stretch out and reach its full length, then start to change from the pale cream you see in the photo above to its more typical brown.  So much fun!

It’s always great to get to see something a little out of the ordinary like this!  And tomorrow, I’ll have pond insects for sure.  :)

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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.

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Late Season Odonates

I finally made it to the North Carolina Zoo a few days ago!  I had wanted to go since I moved here, largely because they have a Sonoran Desert exhibit with a lot of the species I miss from Arizona, and I was excited I finally had a chance to go.  The Sonoran Desert exhibit was not my favorite part, however.  It was this:

 

Lestes sp

Archilestes grandis?

There were dozens of dragonflies and damselflies (=odonates) out flying around the marshy area near the entrance!  I am not 100% sure which species this is as they were a ways off and I am really that not great at IDing lestid damselfly species anyway, but they were huge so probably Archilestes grandis? And there were a lot of them.  I was excited to see any dragonflies or damselflies out this late in the year!

Anyone else still seeing dragonflies and damselflies?

(Thanks to Mike Powell for making me question my initial identification of this damselfly as a Lestes sp.!)

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

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Escapee

One of the hazards of bringing dragonfly and damselfly nymphs into your house overnight is that they sometimes molt into adults and fly away when you’re not looking.  That’s what happened with this one:

Fragile forktail (Ischnura posita) damselfly female

Fragile forktail (Ischnura posita) damselfly female

Found it sitting on the wall the next morning.  My husband is always SO happy when these things happen…

(Note: it is very difficult to convey sarcasm in a blog post.)

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