Here there be dragons

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) enjoying a repast of Blue Dasher (

Wow, a record for me. Three days in a row at the Yamato Scrub! My older son, Eric, surprised me midmorning on Labor Day by suggesting that we go to Yamato Scrub. I seized on the suggestion, and off we went. I brought snacks and a drink to keep him occupied, and it worked! I was able to install him on a bench with a good view of the pond while I wandered off to take a few more pictures of the insect life around the wetlands, and found some new (to me) creatures and behaviors. It wasn’t long before […]

Backyard bug profile: Celithemis eponina

Celithemis eponina, Halloween Pennant, close-up. Boca Raton, FL, May 24, 2013.

The beginning of spring, by which I mean the arrival of the rainy season, is one of my favorite times of year here in south Florida. The damselflies and dragonflies are out in significant numbers again, dotting the grasses and trees searching for food. Earlier this week there were dozens of dragonflies cruising the back yard, among them some pretty Needham’s Skimmers and the eye-catching little pennant, Celithemis eponina, commonly known as the Halloween Pennant for its festive orange and black (well, a brown so dark that people call it black, like my dad’s hair back before he became a […]

After the rains, the odonates appear

Everglades Sprite (Nehalennia pallildula). Boca Raton, FL, May 4, 2013.

South Florida is typically described as having two seasons: wet (May through October) and dry (November through April). Hydrologists like to split this up a bit further, with the wet season (now called high rainfall, low evapotranspiration season) running June through October, and the dry season now divided into two subseasons: low rainfall, low evapotranspiration (November through February) and a low rainfall, high evapotranspiration season (March through May). What this translates to in layman’s terms seems to be something like “wet, then dry, then really dry.”

Over the last three years, two Aprils have been fairly wet (7.5 inches at […]

Cold spells=insect close-ups


The first few days of fall in Florida often bring cold (well, cool) fronts to the region. This year we’re already on our second or third round of long-sleeve days, so I thought this might be a good time to show off what I’ve been able to capture of the cold-slowed insect fauna.

Here’s a photo from last week; it’s the Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) with the messed-up wing from the front porch. The Blue Dasher is a member of a monotypic group (which just means that, like Tigger, the wonderful thing about the Blue Dasher is it’s the only […]

Dragonfly eyes


For those who know a few dead languages, it probably comes as no surprise that dragonflies have excellent vision. The very word dragon (via Latin draco, from the Greek δρακοιν) means “to see clearly.” And, as the late Philip Corbet noted in his magnum opus, “no other insects have compound eyes that are larger or contain more ommatidia [facets]. … The visual field of the adult is almost 360°: the dragonfly can see in all directions except directly behind the head, where the wings and body interrupt vision—a fact quickly learned by successful dragonfly collectors.”

Here is a photo of […]

Dragonflies in 3D


If you are At All into dragonflies, you should check out the 3D image library at Absolutely amazing. I became a member several years ago and have checked in from time to time since then. I plan on visiting more frequently now.

New backyard bug: Anax junius, Common Green Darner


A couple of years ago I was going through my photo files and ran across a picture of a pretty dragonfly, Anax junius, the common green darner. I had seen this darner on the trail at Fern Forest, and since I was posting about dragonflies at the time, I wrote a brief piece about it. But I prefer to post articles about the species I can see in my own back yard; if I have to travel, even if it’s just to a nearby nature center, it doesn’t feel like it’s as legitimate, somehow. But now I can write about […]

Dragonfly week comes to a close

Wow, my first-ever Dragonfly Week is already drawing to a close, and I have so many more things I was going to write about! I had planned to at least mention some of the adaptations that go into the incredible aerial feats performed by these “primitive” insects, like their offset thorax, their wings (structurally, they have spars and struts to stiffen the otherwise flimsy “cellophane”; functionally, they have independent 4-wing drive, rather than the “paired” flight evolved by other insects, e.g., Lepidoptera and Hymenoptera; physiologically they have “what may well be the most massive mitochondria in the animal kingdom [Corbet […]

Another darner from a couple of years ago

Going through my old photo files has been fun for me; last night I found a slightly better photo of Coryphaeschna ingens, the Regal Darner [UPDATE:Gynacantha nervosa, Twilight Darner] who visited us during Tropical Storm Fay. I also ran across a couple of untagged photos of other species that I knew I’d seen, but couldn’t find in my files (lesson: ALWAYS apply photo tags). One of the untagged photos that I found is this Common Green Darner (Anax junius) that I saw on one of my lunchtime walks at Fern Forest: I knew I’d seen these guys before, but I’d […]

Dragonfly species of Palm Beach County

My post about the Pierides the other day got me thinking of Alexander Pope’s advice, in his Essay on Criticism: “A little learning is a dang’rous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.”

Pieria was a region in ancient Macedonia, rather than Thessaly where Pierus and his daughters (the Pierides) lived. But Macedonia was where Mount Olympus was supposed to be, and the Muses (also called the Pierides after they pwned Pierus’s daughters in the earliest episode of Ancient Greek Idol) hung out there. So Pieria might well have been named for the Muses, rather than the ancient […]