Four Local Dragonflies
By Melissa Wynn
Photos by Ray Bruun of Shingletown Ca
One of the best, and most common, sights while playing along the shores of NorCal’s numerous waterways and lakes are the colorful and fascinating dragonflies. Over 500 species of these four winged, arial acrobats call California home.
By the time you spot a dragonfly skimming the surface of the water hunting mosquitos the time has come for our fluttering friend to mate and die. Dragonflies spend the longest part of their lives living underwater in its larval state. These baby dragonflies are called nymphs.
Female dragonflies lay their eggs in or near water, often on the stems of plants just below the surface. The dragonfly eggs then hatch into nymphs. The nymphs remain underwater hunting aquatic insects from two months to five years depending on adult size and species.
When a nymph is ready to metamorphose into an adult, it climbs up a reed or other plant stem and hangs itself upside down to dry. Exposure to air causes the mysteriously changing larva to begin breathing. After drying for awhile the nymph’s skin splits at a weak spot behind the head and the adult dragonfly simply crawls out of its old skin, dries it’s sparkling, iridescent wings in the sun and flies away to find a mate.
The size and colors of dragonflies are as varied as those of us that find them fascinating. Dragonflies have been around since the days of the dinosaur and most of us have favorites.
Perhaps blue is your color. The stunning Paddle Tailed Darner darts about the lakes and streams of the mountain regions in all it’s turquoise dotted splendor from May to November. It always brings a smile when this big, blue eyed beauty goes buzzing by. Males and females of this species share the same color scheme.
Brilliant red and delicate is the name of the game for the male Saffron Winged Meadowhawk. This small crimson colored cruiser can be spotted from Chico to Chester, Redding to Reno. These red eyed rascals prefer it warm and roam the woodland marshes, ponds, streams and lakes of Mountain Valley Living country from June to October. His mate will be the lady dressed in yellow.
The Band-Winged Meadowhawk likes variety in its wardrobe. Both males and females sport body colors ranging from pale yellow to the deepest reds. It’s the beautiful bands on their delicate wings that set these lovers of the shallow, weedy ponds and lakes apart from their dozens of cousins. Watch for our banded buddies in the foothills to the mountain tops from April to November.
Like the name implies, Eight-Spotted Skimmers of both sexes sport eight dark spots and eight white, two on each of their four light catching wings. The ladies of this medium sized dragonfly clan sport golden dots upon their darker bodies while the boys are dressed in dusty white that is iridescent and almost a bluish lavender when the light catches him just right. Both are black eyed beauties helicoptering around the ponds, lakes and ditches of California from April to October.
Playing near the water anytime soon? How many different dragonflies can you spot in one outing? Snap some photos and check your count with a field guide of dragonflies online at www.southwestdragonflies.net.
Flight seasons facts courtesy of www.southwestdragonflies.net.