Tuesday, 29 June 2010

ABC Wednesday - Insects with the X Factor

Elegant and mesmerising creatures of light and air the Dragonfly has flown across the earth for over 300 million years and still has the X Factor.  Back in ancient times giant dragonflies with wingspans of up to 36 inches hovered over the water but smaller species existed similar to their shimmering descendants.  Their aerial acrobatic skills  are due to the fact that unlike most insects dragonflies beat their front and hind wings independent of each other.  Like small helicopters they whirl and zoom across a stretch of water their wings beating more than 1,600 times a minute and, it is estimated, they can travel over 30 miles an hour.
These two images are of a Black Darter although as you can see the predominant colour is xanthos, OK that is latin for yellow but those X words are hard to come by.  It is either female or an immature male possibly the latter as it has three yellow spots in the black band of the thorax.  The extraordinary eyes can see as far as forty metres  (44 yards) but in common with other insect eyes it cannot move them, but this is no problem to the dragonfly for it can rotate its head giving it an almost 360 degree vision. 

Dragonflies are benign in their attitude towards humans. They neither sting nor bite us and in fact they do a great deal of good in keeping down mosquitoes and other small flies which make up the bulk of their diet. I hope it had a go at the ones that were nibbling at my knees while I took the photographs. They only enjoy a brief life of iridescent beauty, usually just a few weeks on the wing. The remainder of their total lifespan of two years is spent as underwater larvae but just as they are formidable killers on the wing so in their aquatic form they are just as ruthless.  Maybe this is why in Japan dragonflies are associated historically with victory in battle.  The X rated story from medieval England is that the long, needle-like bodies of dragonflies would sew up the lips of children that told lies. Shudder...

Damselflies belong to the same order as Dragonflies, Odonata, but are smaller and have different patterns of behaviour being more social, less aggressive in their territorial defences and populate an area more densely. What prettier sight is there than dozens of brightly coloured Damselflies floating up and down in the air by the side of ponds. This Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) alight on a fern rests its wings over its body unlike the Dragonflies which remain spread out in flat, horizontal positions. They also do not feed in flight.

 Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa), the sun just catching its wings.



 What other insect has the X Factor. It has to be the butterfly. A Large Skipper feeding on its favourite plant, the bramble.  It can be found anywhere with wild grasses and has the wonderfully long proboscis as you can see here, ideal for its favourite flowers.

All these photos were taken in the peat moss of Angerton ideal condition with their pools and flora for these creatures.
But some insects you can just take a snap of when wandering down country lanes with a pocket camera. The Small Tortoiseshell, usually one of the first to appear in the year and in the autumn it is most commonly seen in gardens.

But country lanes can also provide something that looks like an X Files episode, webs covering all the hedges, reminding me of those old B films of aliens wrapping humans in cocoons or huge spider colonies tucking away the bodies of their victims.   Thankfully this is the work of the ermine moth which provides protection for its thousands of caterpillars from the birds, who find them rather tasty.
 The trouble with Insects with the X Factor is that they are rather fast and flighty - click - too late they have gone -  Bxxxx

We are nearing the end of this round of ABC Wednesday having reached the tricky letter X but for inventive posts for the letter X go here.

16 comments:

Sylvia K said...

Great, interesting post for the X day -- definitely one of the harder ones! Your photos are superb! Hope your week is going well!

Sylvia

photowannabe said...

Stunning photos of the dragonflys. Great information. Don't like the part about sewing the kids lips together....yikes.

Roger Owen Green said...

you know, some four-leaved flowers sorta look like X. nice shots!

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Cheryl said...

Lovely photos and fascinating information. I love dragonflies but never see anything quite as exotic as these.

Amy said...

I really enjoyed this post - the photos are amazing and the information fascinating. Thank you!

Hildred and Charles said...

Marvelous photos, - all of them so elegant. Thank you for the wonderful information.

Paula Scott said...

Brilliant and inventive once again!!! And, very informative. I am most grateful for all that is here.

Tumblewords: said...

Fascinating information and spectactular photos! Thank you!

Mar said...

I'm sorry but I have to repeat the words already said here: fascinating information and pictures, wonderful post for X!!
ABC-Wed: X

Mar said...

And yes, sherry comes from Jerez in Southern Spain.

jabblog said...

Excellent and informative post with wonderful photographs - definitely not x-rated! I've been trying and failing to photograph a broad-bodied chaser this summer.

Gattina said...

Insects always look better in Macro then in natural, lol I don't like them, but your post was very interesting.
Gattina ABC Team

Anna said...

Brilliant and beautiful photos of insects. Interesting explainations about the lives of dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies. I am not a 'bug-photographer', but you have captured the beauty of these creatures and kept my interest throughout your post.
Well done!
Best wishes,
Anna
Anna's X-words

peripheralperceptions said...

I love dragonflies and your captures are wonderful. Love all the macro bug shots and your take on the letter for the day!

秋娥秋娥 said...

成熟,就是有能力適應生活中的模糊。.................................................................

Gayle said...

Superb photos that show every detail of the dragonfly. You even captured one standing on an X in the second photo!