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Glenn Eastman — obituary

EASTMAN, D. Glenn 1934-2024 On Friday, April 12, 2024,...

A pair of poems for spring

Editor's note: Chris Cavan sends these reflections...

Diana’s Quiz – April 13, 2024

by Diana Filer 1.  What device in effect...
Science & NatureWhat is That?What Is That … Fair Damsel?

What Is That … Fair Damsel?


We find damselflies more difficult to photograph and identify than dragonflies, perhaps because damselflies tend to be slimmer and smaller, and we see them most often in flight out over the water rather than land.

Damselflies and dragonflies are closely related, but easily distinguished from one another.  In addition to their finer profiles, most damselflies hold their wings together over their backs while dragonflies hold their wings horizontally like an airplane.

Near the end of May, we saw our first damselfly of the year on the bare, gravely earth at the side of our cottage road.  The powdered dancer is a large damselfly measuring up to 42 millimeters in length.  Both male and female are brownish with black markings.  With age the male develops a whitish pruinosity over much of its body; the female develops a bluish thorax over time.  Every year, we see the powdered dancer throughout June and July.

The second damselfly we saw this year was the ebony jewelwing.  Normally, we see them in August, but this one was photographed on June 20th.  The ebony jewelwing may have been the first damselfly we learned to identify, perhaps because it has such distinctive wings.  Another large damselfly measuring up to 57 millimeters in length, its wings are broad and nearly black.  If the light is right we can see the metallic green of its head, thorax, and abdomen.  We know the individual below is a female because it shows a white spot on each wing, whereas the male’s wings are all black.

One of our favourite damselflies is the skimming bluet, mostly because of its propensity for resting on our kayak.  Many times over the years, Bruce has picked up a hitch hiker on the bow while he is kayaking.  We do not know if this bluet is drawn to the kayak’s red colour or is taking a rest.  Either or both could be true.  We have it on good authority that skimming bluets often perch on floating vegetation such as water lilies.

The following photograph is of a male and a female bluet damselfly mating.  The photo indicates that the female has accepted the male, allowing it to transfer his sperm to her.  This mating formation is called a mating wheel.  We see it as a heart.  (Please forgive our anthropomorphising.)

Last but not least, we are delighted to tell you that we have managed to photograph and identify (with help) a new damselfly this year.  The sedge sprite damselfly is tiny, its total length measuring up to only 30 millimeters. This small, slender, metallic green damselfly is said to be common in marshes and along lake edges with tall vegetation, but this one was caught in a spider’s web on our lakeside deck.  Now that we have noticed the sedge sprite, we hope to see others in flight along the water’s edge.

You know, of course, that we love birds and insects that include pesky, blood-sucking mosquitoes in their diet, so how can we not love damselflies for which mosquitoes are an important food both at the adult and nymph stage?  To be fair, damselflies eat a variety of other insects and they, in turn, are an important source of food for birds and other insectivores.

We are looking forward to spotting and photographing more species of damselflies during the second half of the summer.

We have not found a field guide that focuses solely on damselflies.  To learn more about local damselflies, we rely on the Algonquin Field Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies by Colin Jones et al, and the Princeton Field Guide Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East by Dennis Paulson.




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