The Secret Life of a Damselfly

The Secret Life of a Damselfly

While fishing for trout at the pond in my father-in-law’s Northwest Montana home, I noticed that there were hundreds of beautiful, silent, blue flying insects near the edge of the water. Abandoning my fly rod for my camera, I lay on my stomach amid damp earth and pungent Canada goose droppings to take some close up photos. This showed some dedication since during the entire shoot cutthroats were splashing and rolling at the water’s edge two feet away.

2016-06-20_160127p1010926-6935971I was getting eye-ball-to-eye-ball with the damselfly, the blue-fronted dancer to be exact. Although during its short one year life this insect spends most of its time in the water as an naiad, once they mature they shed their skin for the final time, inflate their wings and abdomen, and begin life as adults. Then it’s time to mate. A mating pair form a shape known as a “heart” or “wheel”, the male clasping the female at the back of the head, the female curling her abdomen down to pick up sperm from secondary genitalia at the base of the male’s abdomen. Fascinating, right?

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As so often in the animal world, the males are prettier than the females. The males have bright blue bodies while the females are predominantly brown with some shade of blue on their heads.

Why are they called dancers? Rather than flying in a straight line they appear to dance along the top of the water and around the grasses at the water’s edge.

Finally, apparently having damselflies in your pond is a sign that the ecosystem is healthy. That’s a good thing.

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