Sitting outside my place the other night, a welcome sight greeted me. It was the nightly dragonfly invasion. My two farm ponds prove fertile grounds for these prehistoric insects, a good thing for me.
In midsummer, biting insects descend upon my yard…well, call it a yard. Really, it’s an opening in the woods. Anyway, deerflies and mosquitoes make outdoor living difficult and at the least, less-than-pleasant.
Fortunately, just when that magic time arrives when the sun sinks low behind the tall white pines and the sky turns pink and gauzy-white, the dragonflies come around, picking off insects in mid-flight. Dozens and dozens of these helicopter look-alikes fly anywhere from ground level to perhaps 50 feet in altitude. And as they go, the blessed critters catch mosquitoes and other devilish pests by grasping them with their front legs.
I can just picture how it goes. The dragonfly sees a target, acquires it in its radar (okay, so it doesn’t have radar. But it has some kind of built-in acquisition device) and then ZAP! Gotcha! After being thus embraced, the hapless mosquito is then brought to the dragonfly’s mouth and summarily eaten.
There was a time when I used dragonfly nymphs for trout bait. These are easily gotten by walking along the shore of any small pond and with a hard-toothed rake, bringing bottom debris up on shore and watching as the alien-looking nymphs crawled back toward the water. But that was then. Now, realizing that not only are dragonflies beneficial as mosquito catchers, some species of dragonflies are becoming quite scarce, I wouldn’t think of harming any dragonfly.
For more info on dragonflies and their ultra-colorful cousins, damselflies, I suggest investing a couple bucks in the Maine Dragonfly Survey foldout fact sheet. This, courtesy of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, contains a full written description as well as accurate color drawings of all of the dragons and damsels in Maine.
To learn more, just go to www.mefishwildlife.com.