Oftentimes in the garden we see Insects – most are welcome, some not so much so. We try to bear in mind that every creature has its allotted place in the universe and is part of the food chain in some way or another.
Our pond attracts Insects, the most beautiful and entrancing of all being the Damselflies and Dragonflies. These beautiful creatures are voracious hunters of all things flying, the raptors of the Insect world, their diaphanous wings catching the light as they dart hither and yon on murderous missions. On land they are helpless, unable to walk.
325 million years ago their ancestors, the Protodonata, with wingspans of one metre, flew the earth and their descendants, the Dragonflies, inhabited this planet at the same time as dinosaurs.
Of the 5,500 or so species of Dragonflies worldwide, around 40 breed in UK.
One of the Damselflies we see most frequently is the Southern Damselfly (Coenagrion mercuriale) known in Europe as the Mercury Bluet (such a pretty name, I think) The larvae take two years to develop.
Another regular visitor, and the first to fly in spring, is the Large Red Damselfly, called the Large Red Damsel in Europe and the Spring Redtail in Ireland. It is one of the three most widespread Dragonflies and the larvae take between one and three years to develop, though they usually emerge at two years. The larvae are territorial, which I understand is fairly unusual, and communicate with what look like three tail feathers but are thin membranes associated with respiration, known as caudal lamellae. The Damselflies disport themselves merrily on vegetation both in the pond and out, mating and laying eggs and then flying off to complete their short lifespan of one to two weeks.
Dragonflies are larger, heavier, more noticeable. The Southern Hawker, known in Europe as the Blue Hawker(Aeshna cyanea) is a handsome creature with blue eyes and apple green and blue markings on an almost black body in the male. Males are aggressively territorial and fearsome predators, hunting prey as large as butterflies.
Female Southern Hawker laying eggs in moss
The female is dark brown with brown eyes. She lays her eggs in rotting vegetation or sometimes wood, above water, and they hatch the following year in spring. The larvae take two to three years to develop, during which time they prey on tadpoles and other aquatic organisms. When they are ready to emerge they may walk a few feet from the pond to find an appropriate support for their endeavours.
This is not a very clear photo and I cannot really identify it - possibly it's a Southern Hawker
Emergence takes place well above water level and usually at night so I was delighted to discover one in the throes of emerging during the day.
There are many other insects, of course, but I need to keep something in hand for future letters of the alphabet!
Click here to see more Is in this worldwide alphabet.