Garden Damselfly and Dragonfly
This year some Twelve-spot Skimmers visited the garden.
The Skimmers are a variety of damselfly (the male is known as the dragonfly) belonging to the insect order “Odonata.” They have a total of twelve spots on their four wings.
According to the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Insects and Spiders, Chanticleer Press, Inc. © 1980, the head and thorax of a Skimmer is chocolate to light brown and the abdomen, gray-brown to whitish, p 373. I might not have seen this variety because its colors blend into my landscape. But these Skimmers had taken a liking to the light gray, concrete blocks forming the back wall of one of the garden beds. Spreading their wings against this light canvas, they were easy to spot.
The damselfly is a voracious predator of insects. Some of these insects are garden pests. But they also make meals of insects that are “beneficial” to garden plants. This winged insectivore catches and eats insects very quickly so I am not sure they feasted upon my garden’s pests or beneficial insects. However, I was pleased to find that they have a particular taste for mosquitoes, which seem to have a taste for me!
Only after I had spotted these insects in the garden, did I come across a fascinating article by Natalie Angier published in the New York Times on April 1, 2013 titled “Nature’s Drone, Pretty and Deadly.”
Natalie Angier reports that scientists are now actively studying the damselfly, and its mate, the dragonfly. The scientists are using miniature tools to learn more about how the brains and eyes of these insects permit them to fly so quickly and with such focus that they almost always capture their intended prey, undetected.
What was most surprising, maybe not so surprising, about Natalie Angier’s article (given its title) was one small paragraph indicating that dragonfly research was being funded by the military, here and abroad, who are investing in drone technology.
With this year’s visit of the damselfly and dragonfly, I am reminded that the garden is not a model of the peaceable kingdom one might wish it to be.