Dragonfly Emergency

[Ed: I think I’m going to have to call this Retroblog.]

A couple of years ago we were fortunate enough to have our camping pitch in the south of France (Montagnac) used by several cicadas for their emergence, their transformation into consenting adults. Since we were on top of the action in that case, I managed to record the sequence on my trusty old film camera. It is still in our web album section and remains a highlight of our contact with wildlife.

Dragonflies have a very similar lifecycle except that, whereas cicada larvae live underground for many years, dragonfly larvae live underwater for a  somewhat less time. The actual time seems to vary  by species but a year or two seems typical.

Dragonflies abound at our favourite French sheep farm campsite from which we have recently returned. This year I had noticed several husk on the outside wall of les sanitaires (the toilet and shower block) and had wondered if they might be bush crickets or some such. Dragonfly exuviae (larval cases) never occurred to me since they looked too small and, most importantly, were some distance from the lakeside. When ready to emerge, I thought dragonfly larvae clambered out of the water up the nearest suitable grass stem and performed their magical transformation right there. Not always, it seems.

One morning Carol rushed excitedly back to our pitch announcing that a dragonfly was emerging right now. Not for the first time in history, I shot off towards the toilet block armed with a camera, monopod and long lens. Why do insects continually encourage me into such freedom-threatening situations?  What is it about toilet blocks that attracts them? I really am going to get arrested one day.

Regrettably I had missed the actual emergence from the larval case and the new soon-to-be adult was hanging on it, as they do. Here, however, is a slightly reduced sequence of the wings and abdomen developing into the full-sized adult. It’s a Black-tailed Skimmer, by the way, but I can’t tell if it’s a female or a male since both start out a similar colour. Incidentally, young males are called teneral males.

Skimmer_emergency_01 Skimmer_emergency_02 Skimmer_emergency_03 Skimmer_emergency_04

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