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 [...]

Citrine forktail

Seventh and final shot. Head and tail in acceptable focus.

Last week I started to notice the persistent presence in these here parts of those ephemeral and infernally hard to see odonates, the damselflies. Two forktail species, Rambur’s and Citrine, (Ischnura ramburii and I. hastata, for those of you keeping score at home) are the only ones present so far, but I’m sure that soon I’ll see the bluets again.

I’m generally only able to go out on photo safari during the lunch hour (I do have a day job, after all), and I’ve found that the local damselflies are pretty wary in the middle of the day. But the [...]

Cold spells=insect close-ups

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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 [...]

When dragonflies don’t…

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fly, that is.

This morning when Eric and I went outside to plant some basil (yes, November is the start of herb-growing season here in south Florida), we noticed a dragonfly on the wall of the house that wasn’t moving very much. One of its wings was at an odd angle:

On closer inspection, it looked like this Blue Dasher (known to odonate enthusiasts as Pachydiplax longipennis) had sustained some kind of damage to the thorax; perhaps the little gal flew into a window or something:

Here’s a detail of that same shot:

The [...]

Dragonfly eyes

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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

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If you are At All into dragonflies, you should check out the 3D image library at odonatacentral.org. 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

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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 [...]

Some more damsels of August [Updated]

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Last week I noticed a couple more damselflies; these guys were in the front yard instead of the back yard.

The first two pictures are from Saturday August 20th:

This next shot is from Monday the 22nd. I’m not sure, but I think this might be the same individual, just a bit older and a lot bluer (you can really see the difference in the thorax (the chest section). I really have no idea who these guys were, and I haven’t gotten any IDs on this guy/these guys from my normally reliable bugguide.net.

But [...]

A few damselflies from August

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This month the odonata population (dragonflies, anisoptera, and damselflies, zygoptera) seems to have exploded in Palm Beach County. We’ve had dozens of dragonflies patrolling our pool, (tonight it even looked like a few of them were trying, in a not very evolutionarily adaptive way, to lay eggs in it!). But we’ve also had a few of their daintier cousins, the damselflies, disporting themselves quite shamelessly. Here are a few snapshots of the damselflies.

These Common Spreadwings were enjoying the foliage around our pool while their larger cousins, the dragonflies, were patrolling the airspace above the water (they were a bit [...]