What Time is it in Nature: Common Whitetail Dragonfly

I wrote this for the blog at the museum where I work a few weeks ago. Thought you all might be interested!

NC Museum of Natural Sciences Blogs

Summer is nearly here, and the dragonflies have returned to Prairie Ridge!  On any given day, you might see 15 or 20 species of dragonflies and damselflies at the pond, but some species are more common than others.  The Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia), as the name suggests, is one of the most commonly spotted dragonflies at Prairie Ridge.

Common whitetail male at the pond

Common Whitetails are found throughout the US and in every county in North Carolina, so they are one of the most common species in the country.  They are medium-sized dragonflies that reach lengths of just under 2 inches with wingspans of about 2.25 inches and have relatively broad abdomens.  Males, as seen in the image above, have wide black or dark brown bands along the center of each wing and a bright white abdomen.  Females look quite different, sporting three black spots along the upper edge of each wing and brown abdomens with…

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Friday 5: Dragonfly Grins

Warning: this is going to be about the least scientific post I’ve ever written.  I am about to commit behavioral entomological blasphemy and attribute human traits to insects.  Just wanted to give you a head’s up so you know what you’re getting yourself into if you choose to read this post.  :)

<commence anthropomorphization>

Have you ever taken a good, close look at a dragonfly’s head?  Ever notice how they almost always look like they’re smiling?  I know I’m going to ruin dragonflies forever for you all by posting this, but I took a photo of a nymph yesterday and was struck by how happy it looked.  It got me thinking of the other photos I’ve taken of dragonflies and after looking back through my collection, I’ve noticed a trend.  Today I give you five photographs of dragonflies that look like they have huge grins on their faces, just because I felt the need to share this revelation of smiling dragonflies with the world.

Exhibit A: Comet Darner Female

Comet darner

Comet darner

This gorgeous gal was captured in a mist net by the ornithology group at the Museum a while back.  They trap birds with the nets at Prairie Ridge every other week or so to band and track the birds on the grounds.  Someone found this beauty in the net and brought her for me to see.  Look at that big smiley face!  She might be a cold-blooded killer (pun intended!), but she looks so pleased with herself.  She almost looks like she’s grinning at you.  Or maybe she knows something you don’t know.  Perhaps that she’s going to try to bite you on the leg in a moment…  (Happily, she got my pants instead!)

Exhibit B: Flame Skimmer

flame skimmer

Flame skimmer

This is one of my all time favorite dragonfly photos I’ve taken.  But look at his face!  There’s that big ol’ dragonfly grin.  But that grin doesn’t even come close to this one:

Exhibit C: Green Darner

Green darner

Green darner

When you look at dragonflies head on, they definitely look like they’re smiling! Does this darner not look absolutely thrilled that I’m holding him?  It’s like he was asking for me to capture him in a net and take photos of him.  Like his comet darner relative, there’s always a chance he was smiling because he was daydreaming about the day he could take revenge against me for interrupting his day of eating and looking for girls to hook up with.  Those activities are important to these guys, and I had to go and ruin his day by insisting he pose for photos…

The smiles aren’t just a trait of the adults either!  Check out this nymph:

Exhibit D: Green Darner Nymph

Green darner nymph

Green darner nymph

This nymph is giving you a more bashful, sideways sort of grin, glancing at you out of the corner of its eye.  Hard to believe that an insect with that sort of adorable face could be a mass murderer of insects, but then it’s never the ones you expect…

And finally…

Exhibit E: Saddlebags Nymph

Saddlebag nymph

Saddlebag nymph

This one looks happier than a kid on pixie sticks! Just look at that smile.  He (or she) is positively grinning from ear to ear!  Nevermind that that grin is made up of the grabby parts of the dragonfly mouthparts or that you can see the sharp, chewy bits underneath.  This smile probably strikes fear into the hearts of many insects, small fish, and tadpole – and might be the last thing many of them will ever see!

So there you have it, folks.  Smiling dragonflies.  Who knew?  I think this might be part of the reason people are under the impression that dragonflies are “cute” or “girly” insects, why I see them so often on jewelry and silk scarves and purses.  They look all cute and happy!  But these insects are fierce predators. They will happily eat other dragonflies and damselflies if given the chance, along with anything else they can catch and hold onto long enough to eat.  A dragonfly was once recorded taking down a hummingbird – a BIRD!  They’re vicious, voracious little hunters, not the little flimsy, fairy-like things so many people seem to think they are.  And maybe that’s why they’re smiling.  They know they’re completely bad a** – and they don’t care who knows it!

<end anthropomorphization>

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

 

Dragonflies and the Afterlife

DSC_4487 I didn’t give you any heads up about why I haven’t blogged at all in the last few weeks, but I’ve been out of town.  If you read my blog regularly, you likely know that my father recently passed away, so my sister and I had to go to California to clean out his house.  We spent a week just cleaning out my dad’s garage.  That will likely be one of the most physically exhausting experiences of my entire life, 14+ hours a day hauling heavy boxes out and deciding what to do with the contents.  Plus, the whole garage was full of deer mice, so the risk of getting hantavirus was enough that we felt that we needed real safety gear.  Let me tell you that having sweat pooled inside a respirator is a very unpleasant experience.  And did I mention that ¼ of the things in that garage were rocks?  My dad was a mineral collector for nearly three decades and the evidence was in his garage.  The last two days we were in California were devoted entirely to sorting and hauling rocks.  They were some of the most mind bendingly beautiful minerals I’ve ever seen, so it was sort of fun, but we still moved rocks for two entire days.  If there’s anything you really don’t want to do after many very long days of hauling things, it having two whole days of hauling even heavier things at the end of it.

DSC_4541So what does this have to do with insects, you might be thinking?  Because all things here relate to insects somehow, right?  Allow me to change gears here for a moment.  Over the past few years, I have received a large number of e mails that contain a story about someone the sender loved who has died.  These people have told me stories about mothers, fathers, siblings, and children who have been killed or died from illnesses.  They’re sometimes heartbreaking stories of hurt and loss.  But there’s one thing that ties these stories together: they all feature dragonflies.  The stories typically go like this.  Someone in a family has passed away, often suddenly or after a long, horrible illness.  At some point after this person has died, the author of the e mail has noticed dragonflies, sometimes large numbers of them.  These might be around a grave site, at the deceased person’s home, or some other meaningful spot that’s attached to memories of the departed.  The people sharing these stories take immense comfort in the presence of the dragonflies.  They’re beautiful stories, and people share them with me for, I believe, one of two reasons, 1) because I love dragonflies and they just want to tell their story to someone who would appreciate the experience they had, or 2) because they’ve read somewhere that dragonflies are the souls of departed loved ones returned to Earth to reassure their loved ones that they’re doing okay in the afterlife.  They want to know what I think about that, whether it’s true.

DSC_4605As much as I really love that people choose me, of all people, to send these stories to, I can’t help but think it’s a little odd that someone would write to a stranger to ask what essentially amounts to this: has my loved one reached some sort of happy afterlife?  To ask a scientist whether dragonflies are spiritual messengers from beyond the grave seems odder still, and I hate that my answer isn’t the one that I know what they want to hear, that I do not personally believe this is true.  What can I say – I’m a scientist and my spiritual belief system is complicated, but it doesn’t include dragonflies as representatives of the afterlife.  However, I am absolutely not the type of person who would ever tell someone they’re wrong about their own spiritual beliefs.  I am not convinced that I am right and that other people are wrong, so I tell them that no, I do not believe in the idea of dragonflies as departed souls, but who knows?  The world is a strange and wonderful and terrible place and who am I to tell them that they’re wrong about something they believe?  I am probably the least qualified person to make judgments about their beliefs, so I tell them that and thank them for choosing to share their story with me.  I tell them that I’m sorry for their loss, but I am very happy that the dragonflies gave them comfort when they needed it.  Sometimes people write again to thank me for the response, sometimes not, but I respond to every one of those stories because I feel I should.  The person on the other end needs that response.

DSC_4590So let’s go back to that garage in California.  My sister and I had a dumpster delivered to my dad’s house because, honestly, he had a lot of junk in his garage that wasn’t fit for donation due to mouse contamination.  So, we started dumping those things in the dumpster.  I chucked my first thing into the dumpster and looked up to see a dragonfly.  It was flying around, up above the dumpster, a clubtail of some sort, while we were cleaning.  Later that day I saw a few more hovering around in the yard.  The next day I saw dozens, though they were spread out over the course of the day.  My sister even noticed a few of them, and she rarely notices insects.  There weren’t a lot of dragonflies at any given time, but the funny thing is this: I’ve been to my dad’s house several times, and I’ve NEVER seen a dragonfly there before.  Yet here they were!  Lots of them flying around as my sister and I cleaned and sorted and packed and discarded the miscellaneous flotsam and jetsam of a life recently ended.

DSC_4476I still don’t believe in the idea of dragonflies representing the returning souls of the dead.  I don’t think I’m ever going to.  But those dragonflies made me pause for a moment and think of all those sad and beautiful stories people have sent me over the years, the belief that so many people have about dragonflies and the afterlife.  Just for a moment, I almost believed myself.  At that moment, I wanted to believe, and I suddenly understood why so many people hold onto this idea so strongly that they would share it with a total stranger half way across the world.  But, even if those dragonflies weren’t my dad looking down as my sister and I did a physically and emotionally draining task, it made me stop and think about him. Every time one flew by, I remembered and smiled.

For that alone, I will always be grateful to those dragonflies.

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

2012 Dragonfly Swarm Project Year-End Report: Conclusions

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

It’s time for part 3 of the yearly Dragonfly Swarm Project report! Today, I present the results of the predictions I made last year based on the data you all have contributed over the last 3 years, plus I’m proposing a challenge to you. Last year I made three predictions, so I’ll address those first, but then I want to get some feedback from YOU and see what you think. Ready? Let’s go!

This year was an interesting year in many ways, so the conclusions I thought were going to be so clear-cut and consistent from year to year aren’t necessarily as predictable as expected. That makes for exciting science though! The first prediction was the most straightforward:

Old Prediction: Dragonfly swarming will be most commonly reported east of the Missouri River in the U.S.

This is the one constant in this project each year. The space between the Missouri River and the Mississippi River typically produces several swarms each year, but I think it’s safe to make a new prediction based on the data gathered so far:

New Prediction: US dragonfly swarms are most common east of the Mississippi River.

As I stated last year, I think a lot of this has to do with the amount of water in the eastern US relative to the west. There is more habitat available to dragonflies in the east and likely more dragonfly individuals present in the wetter areas than in the arid west (though I don’t have data to back this up – will be looking through the literature for evidence). To have swarms, you need a lot of dragonflies in one area. You see dragonfly swarms in the west, but there are often identifiable special conditions that concentrate the dragonflies within an area at the time of the swarm. I have a few ideas about that that I’ll get to…

Old Prediction: Most swarms reported will follow flooding or heavy rains.

This prediction was… partially correct. While there were still reports of flooding or heavy rains in 263 of the 705 swarm reports made in 2012, you’ll notice that that’s not even half the reports. In fact, 314 reports indicated that there was no flooding or heavy rains in the area prior to swarming events, which suggests that rains might not play as strong a role in swarm formation as I previously thought. That said, I still think that flooding is an important factor and if you compare the areas of the country where flooding took place in 2012 and the location of swarms, there appears to be a nice correlation between the two. Sadly, I don’t possess the technical expertise to actually show that to you at this time, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Based on the 2012 data, I have developed a new idea about possible factors in swarm formation, which I’ll discuss later. And I make this prediction:

New Prediction: 40% or more swarms will be observed after flooding or heavy rains in 2013.

I still think heavy rains and floods are a major factor in swarm formation, so I suspect that I will continue to get a lot of swarms reported that occurred with major rains/floods.

Old Prediction: There will be more dragonfly swarms reported from the northern Midwest (Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, etc) in 2012 than in 2011. Similarly, there will be very few reports of swarms from eastern Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

This prediction was based on an idea I had after two years worth of data collection: that areas where there were big weather events and massive dragonfly swarming in one year would not have many reports the following year when that massive swarming was due to flooding.  My idea was that flooding in an area might deplete the nymphal population that would emerge the following year. I made the prediction based on a comparison from two seasons and wasn’t sure it was going to hold true in 2012. However, I crunched a few numbers and made a few maps, and here’s what I discovered. In 2010, there was heavy activity in the north central US, with reports from Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin making up 36.8% of the total reports for the year. Iowa and Illinois alone made up over 20% of the reports. In 2011, however, those five states made up only 7.8% of the reports. Things picked up in 2012 such that 18.9% of observations were made in the north central US. So, that part of the prediction was correct: swarming activity dipped strongly the year after the flooding in these states and then increased the following year. So far so good! But what about that second prediction? I have numbers if you are interested in them, but the map will show it so much more clearly. In 2011, a massive number of reports were made in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, close to half of the reports. The map of the 2011 data in that area looked like this (click images to make them larger), and focus on the four states of interest, that big blotch of nearly solid green on the upper mid-Atlantic states:

2011 Static NE

Clearly, there was a major event happening in OH-PA-WV-VA, and indeed there was a lot of rain and flooding in that area that resulted from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Lots of flooding meant lots of swarms in 2011. This is that same area in 2012:

2012 Static NE

Now THAT is a huge difference! Clearly there were far more swarms taking place in this region in 2011 than in 2012, so the second part of the prediction held true as well. The sample size is small and it’s hard to make broad conclusions without at least a few more year’s worth of data, but I think the data so far suggest that heavy swarming in a location one year results in low swarming the following year.

That said, there was no obvious and large center of activity this year. In fact, there were only two areas where large swarming events occurred: the New Jersey/southeastern New York area and Colorado. Comparing the 2012 data to 2013 data for Colorado isn’t fair because Colorado is a western state that doesn’t normally have a lot of swarming activity. So, I am going to make this prediction for 2013:

New Prediction: There will be fewer swarms in the New Jersey area in 2013 than in 2012.

Ultimately, however, the event in New Jersey wasn’t one the mega events you all have documented in the last few years, so it might not show the same sort of pronounced dip in activity highlighted in the maps above. Plus, the data from New Jersey is confounded because the eastern migration passes through the state in the fall.  We’ll just have to wait and see what happens!

I have a few ideas about why dragonfly swarms form and why they are important, but in the interest of keeping this post a reasonable length I am going to save them for another post. However, I promised you a challenge, and here it is: what do YOU think? I want to see if you all can come up with exciting, new ideas that I haven’t considered by answering two questions:

1. Why do static dragonfly swarms form? Feel free to list multiple suggestions for why they form at all, in addition to why they form in the locations where they have been observed. And…

2. What roles do you think static dragonfly swarms play in the environment? I.e., why are dragonfly swarms important?

I have my own ideas for about this behavior, but sometimes it’s good to get some fresh perspective.  That’s where you all come in! Feel free to base your answers on your own observations, the information I have shared on my blog, or any other source.  And just to keep things interesting, I’m offering a small dragonfly themed prize pack for a few of my favorite responses. If you want a chance at winning, offer some answers to the questions before 10AM EST Sunday, February 10, when I’ll post the reasons I propose for why these swarms form and why they’re important. I look forward to hearing your ideas!

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

2012 Dragonfly Swarm Project Year-End Report: Distribution of Swarms

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

It was another great year of data collection for the Dragonfly Swarm Project!  I continue to be impressed by the number of people who participate in this project, especially as it’s hard to promote it  in the hopes that someone might see a swarm and most people actually find the project after they’ve already seen a dragonfly swarm.  Still, over 700 reports were made in 2012 and that’s pretty darned good!  So, what does that data tell us?  The next two posts will focus on what we can learn from the data so far.  Today, I present the long-awaited maps (I think this year’s maps took a year or two off my life with all the stress they caused…) and next week I’ll discuss some of the patterns that I’m seeing in the data after three seasons of data collection.  Let’s dive into that data!

Like last year, I’ve split the map data into two videos.  It’s easiest to see changes over time when the images I create are presented as a series, so each map you’ll see in these videos represents the swarms that occurred during the time frame indicated at the top of the screen.  The pushpin colors mean something too: red represents a static swarm and blue represents a migratory swarm.  My apologies that the blue pins are a little hard to see on the map – they show up easily in Google Earth, but not so well in the images it produces.  For the best viewing experience, try watching the videos in full screen mode by clicking on the icon with the four arrows in the bottom right corner of the video player.  You’ll be able to see the changes from week to week more easily that way.

The first set of maps document the cumulative data for the year and show the overall pattern of swarm locations in 2012.  Each week’s new sightings are added to the previous weeks’:

The second set of maps shows the data for each month individually and by swarm type.  The first set of maps are the static swarms and the second are the migratory.  Each map represents only the data for the month indicated at the top of the video rather than showing the cumulative data.  For the migratory swarms, look closely along the southeastern and east coasts.  The pushpins are hard to see against the blue water of the ocean:

As you can see, there were once again more swarms reported east of the Missouri River than west of it.  In spite of the fact that Colorado made it into the 5 states with the most reports in 2012, there just aren’t that many dragonfly swarms in the west and some states (Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico) were entirely unrepresented this year.   Dragonfly swarms definitely appear to be more common in the east than the west.

In 2010, the center of activity was the western Great Lakes states and Iowa and last year it was the Pennsylvania/Ohio area.  This year, the activity was heaviest in the New Jersey area and northern New England coast in the mid to late summer and around the Chicago area in the late summer.   Each year seems to have a different center of activity, and I have a hypothesis for why this happens.  I’ll get to that in the next year-end report!

This year was an odd migration year.  The migration down the east coast has been documented several times in various publications, so it’s a fairly well-established route.  This year, there were very few reports of migratory movements in the east during the typical migration season in late August and September.  In fact, there were hardly any!  While most of the migratory movements reported this year did occur in the usual place, within a few miles of the coastline, the timing was all wrong: most were observed in June and July, much too early for the usual migration.  Again, I have a hypothesis that might explain this, but you’ll have to wait until next time.

The migration along the west coast was also quite weak this year.  That migration has a known set of conditions associated with it, a particular wind direction and a specific temperature.  The dragonfly people in Washington and Oregon were going out this year to the places they usually see migrating variegated meadowhawks on fall days with the right conditions and… nothing!  People were looking, and looking hard, so it seems that it was just a weak year for the migration overall, on both coasts.  I don’t even know how to explain the western migration fail though.  That’s just weird as that one is SO specific and occurs every year almost like clockwork!

Finally, I can say with more certainty that dragonfly swarms really aren’t a rare phenomenon and they happen more often than I’d ever expected when I started this project.  That is in keeping with the last two season’s worth of data.  However, last year I was uncertain whether I would continue to see an increase in the number of swarms reported every year and that has not been the case.  In 2010, I got about 650 reports.  Last year I got over 1100!  This year, I’m back down to 700.  I have a feeling that 600-800 swarm reports per year is normal and that the several hundred reports I got over a 3 week period last year were related to a set of perfect conditions that allowed a massive boom in dragonfly activity right toward the end of the year rather than an increase in participation in the project.  I’ll explain why I think that boom happened in the next part of the year-end report, but I predict that next year we’ll see the same sort of numbers we did this year, barring any sort of odd convergence of conditions that allow another 2011-style reporting boom.

If you’d like to see images of the maps of all the data for the year, I’ve uploaded them to my Yearly Maps page.  There, you can view the maps for static, migratory, and all swarms by year, which should make comparing between years fairly easy.  Click on the images to see a larger version of the map – they’re very tiny on the yearly maps page.

That’s it for this installment, but part three of the year-end report (the conclusions) will be up on Sunday.  It should be pretty interesting!

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

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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!

Swarm Sunday: 2012 Year End Report, Part 1

Dragonfly Swarm Project logoIt’s that time of year again, time for the Dragonfly Swarm Project year-end report!  As usual, the report will take the form of a series of posts.  Today’s post will focus on some of the demographic data and overall trends in the swarm data, a very general overview of the success of the project over the 2012 season.  Next week (or maybe the week after that as it’s going to require some work and I have a very busy week ahead of me) will highlight the distributional data and swarm maps for the year.  The third post will discuss the year’s findings and the conclusions we can draw from the data you have contributed over the last three seasons.  Then I’m going to end the year-end report like I did last year, with some of the interesting social, psychological, and personal results that I cull from the Other Observations part of the report form.  It seems only fair to share some of the best and most interesting stories with the rest of the world.  But first, let’s consider those overall data trends for the year!

dragonfly graphicChanges to the Project This Year

I had wanted to move the Dragonfly Swarm Project to its own website, but hasn’t happened yet.  I’ve got the domain and have started work on it, however, so look for the Dragonfly Swarm Project make its big move before the US 2013 season!

dragonfly graphic

Participation

This year I received 705 reports of dragonfly swarms.  This is fewer than last year’s numbers (1140), but more than the first year’s (652).  I had thought last year that the participation in the project had gone up, but I think there was really just more dragonfly activity last year than usually occurs.  It seems that getting 650 or 700 swarms in a year is normal (that’s about 20% of the people who visit my dragonfly swarm pages) and last year might have been a bit special.  But, that’s why I’m collecting data for 5 years before I publish the results!  It’s hard to see patterns in the data from year to year if it you only a have observations from a few years.

The men were not outnumbered by the women quite as badly this year as they have been in previous years!  Of the reports made by people with names that were obviously one sex or the other, 27% were male and 73% were female.  The women are still ruling the dragonfly swarming data collection, but the men made some strong headway this year.

dragonfly graphic

Distribution of Swarms

You’ll be able to see this information visually when I present the maps in the next post in the results series, but here’s an overview of what the data looked like this year:

  • Swarms have now been reported from 16 countries.  Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and England were added to the list for the first time!  As in previous years, the number of reports in the US outnumbered all other countries combined, but Canada made its usual strong showing.  There were very few south Asian reports and reports from Australia compared to previous years, however.
  • Most swarms were reported in the eastern US this year, similar to last year.
  • There are still reports coming in from both rural and urban areas.  Some of the urban areas are VERY urban, like New York City and Chicago, while some sightings were truly in the middle of nowhere.
  • There were 80 migratory swarms reported this year.  The US states with the greatest number of migratory swarm reports were Florida (12), Texas (9), New Jersey (6), and 4 each in Illinois, New York, and Wisconsin.
  • There were 625 static swarms.  The states with the strongest showings were New York (45), Illinois (45), New Jersey (41), Colorado (33), and Florida (32).  Colorado’s making it into the top 5 is amazing!
  • The fewest swarms were reported in Alaska (1), North Dakota (1), Nebraska (1), West Virginia (1), South Carolina (2), and Nevada (1).  It’s strange to see South Carolina and West Virginia on this list considering last year’s very strong showing in both states.
  • There were swarms reported in 46 of 50 US states and 45 of the 48 contiguous states this year.  There were no swarms reported in Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, or Wyoming, though Alaska made it onto the map for the first time!  Five Canadian provinces/territories also made it onto the map this year.

dragonfly graphic

The Swarms

Most of the swarms reported were, as usual, static swarms.  The migratory season was very strange this year, but I have an idea for why that might be the case that I will share in the post about the project conclusions for the year.  The usual dragonfly species were reported, when species identifications could be made at all: mostly green darners (Anax junius), followed by wandering gliders (Pantala flavescens), black saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), Carolina saddlebags (Tramea carolina), and blue dashers (Pachydiplax longipennis) in the east, and variegated meadowhawks (Sympetrum corruptum) in the west.

dragonfly graphic

Dragonfly Swarms Online and In the News

Dragonfly swarms pop up online every now and again and I highlighted several specific stories during the weekly swarm reports.  However, one great report just appeared in the New Yorker, a piece by Richard Preston in the Dec 3, 2012 issue (pg 40-42 if you’re interested).  It’s a great story that highlights the magic of dragonfly swarms and how urbanites in a city as large as New York City can take a moment to appreciate an amazing spectacle of nature.  The blog post I did for SciStarter last year continues to get a lot of hits and I was able to collect data from quite a few people there this year.  I like that people are sharing their stories, even when they are not explicitly asked to!  And, I keep adding swarm videos to my YouTube dragonfly swarm playlist.  It’s a month or two out of date now, but it currently boasts 157 videos.

Look for a notice next year about an article that I wrote about dragonfly swarms that will come out in June 2013!

dragonfly graphic

Project Promotion

I was able to do a lot more in-person promotion of the Dragonfly Swarm Project this year than in previous years because I both moved to the east coast and started a job working with citizen science.  I’ve handed out my brochure to a lot of people, wandered through the field station where I work looking for dragonfly swarms with many people, and talked about the project at some of the big events at my museum like BugFest.  The project will soon be added to the museum’s citizen science exhibit.  I also presented my findings at the Public Participation in Scientific Research conference in Portland, OR in August.  It was a ton of fun sharing what I’ve learned with other citizen science loving researchers!  I came away with a lot of new contacts and new supporters, so I consider it a successful trip.

Pachydiplax longipennsi female cleared and stamped

 

Thank You!

I’m going to end this post with my yearly THANK YOU to everyone who has been involved in this project.  I am continually astounded by how many reports of swarms I get and I couldn’t do this research without you.  Talking to other researchers this year, I’ve come to learn that you all are doing something very special: you’re studying behavior as citizen scientists.  You’re also finding and contributing to the project because you’re curious about an amazing thing you’ve seen and want to learn more.  That’s not typically how citizen science projects are done.  Normally you’d go out armed with knowledge and collect specific data on a specific topic, but you all are looking for information after you’ve already made your observations.  That’s just cool.  You also have an unusually personal connection with the data you submit.  The stories you share of your experiences are fantastic and make this project more fun than I ever would have expected.  And, we are learning awesome things about this behavior together!  I can’t thank you enough for making this possible.  I value each and every one of you and I hope that you will continue making reports and spreading the word long into the future.

I might not get the maps up next weekend, but they’ll be up by the following weekend for sure.  Until then, enjoy your week!

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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

Swarm Sunday – I’m Calling It

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

The weather’s been doing strange things recently and I’ve only seen two total dragonflies in the past several weeks, so I’m declaring the dragonfly swarm season officially over.  This means that it’s time to start wrapping up by posting some year-end reports this season’s data.  Look for those to start in a couple of weeks.  In the meantime, it occurs to me that I received two reports a couple of weeks ago, right as Hurricane Sandy was barreling toward the east coast, that I forgot to post.  They were reported in these locations:

USA:

Miami Beach, FL
Deer Park, TX

And with that, the American dragonfly swarm season ended!

On a somewhat related front, the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership (MDP) has changed their data submission website a bit.  They are now accepting both dragonfly pond watch data AND migratory dragonfly sightings.  If you’ve submitted migratory sightings to me, no need to submit again – I’ll be sharing all of my migration data with the MDP team anyway.  However, if you haven’t gotten involved in the Dragonfly Pond Watch, however, I encourage you to do so!  All you need to do is make observations of a few easily recognizable species at a nearby pond once a month.  If you’re already out walking your dog or photographing things, why not collect a little data while you’re at it?  The MDP is a really great group of dragonfly researchers and they would love to have your data!

Happy Sunday everyone, and look for the first year-end report in a few weeks!

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

_______________

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!

_______________

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