Seasonal Observations: Kale-Eating Dragonflies

Now that the rain is here and the snowline starting to form, we might have seen the last of the dragonflies and damselflies... but a couple of sightings of the prettiest predator in nature up and down the valley at the end of September, in kale patches, weirdly enough, inspired us to share this amazing photo captured by organic farmer and photographer, Delaney Zayac.

Dragonfly at Ice Cap Organics

Organic kale tempts a dragonfly at Ice Cap Organics, Pemberton, BC. Photo by Delaney Zayac. (Follow them on Instagram @icecaporganics.)

Thanks to Veronica Woodruff from Stewardship Pemberton for advising that Mosquito Lake’s resident dragonflies are most likely Boreal Bluet, Pacific Forktail, Common Spreadwing and Blue-eyed Darner. (With thanks to John Acorn.) On the must-acquire list of books: Bugs of British Columbia. Veronica says, “Its an awesome book for treasure hunting bugs, good descriptions.”

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And a few cool facts gleaned from this article in the New York Times:

New research suggests dragonflies may well be the most brutally effective hunters in the animal kingdom. Call them “ambush predators.”

  • They are 95% successful at capturing and eating whatever they aim for. They can track a moving target and adjust their path mid-air to intercept it. And most of the time, the prey never sees it coming.
  • Their appetite seems to be bottomless.
  • They can focus like a human being (without ADHD or a twitter account.)

The nervous system of a dragonfly displays an almost human capacity for selective attention, able to focus on a single prey as it flies amid a cloud of similarly fluttering insects, just as a guest at a party can attend to a friend’s words while ignoring the background chatter.

  • Dragonflies are magnificent aerialists, able to hover, dive, fly backward and upside down, pivot 360 degrees with three tiny wing beats, and reach speeds of 30 miles per hour. They spend most of their day aloft – hunting, eating, sparring and mating. The four transparent, ultraflexible wings are attached to the thorax by separate muscles and can each be maneuvered independently, lending the insect an extraordinary range of flight options.

A dragonfly can be missing an entire wing and still capture prey.

  • Their eyes are the largest and possibly the keenest in the insect world, a pair of giant spheres each built of some 30,000 pixel-like facets that together take up pretty much the entire head.

They can see you when they’re flying toward you and still see you when they’re flying away.

  • Their order, Odonata, which means toothed ones — after the notably serrated mandibles that crush prey to snuff — includes only 7,000 species worldwide, compared with hundreds of thousands of beetle and butterfly species.
  • That 7,000 figure includes dragonflies, with their stiff wings, and the related damselflies, which can fold back their wings.
  • The species is 300 million years old. Back then, supersize dragonflies with wingspans the length of an arm, roamed the Earth.
  • Some dragonfly species migrate long distances each year – eg the globe skimmer dragonfly has been tracked crossing between India and Africa, a round trip, multigenerational pilgrimage that may exceed 10,000 miles.

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