Tag Archives: aquatic animals

Weekly Puzzler Answer #119


A female dobsenfly

Have you seen this insect from last week’s puzzler? Are you a fisherman?

If so, you may be more familiar with the nymphs of these giant insects than the adults. Known as hellgrammites, they, like the adults, can get to be quite big and are pretty intimidating-looking when you find them. As larvae they hide under rocks in unpolluted streams or rivers, searching out soft-bodied invertebrates that they can feed on. They go through 10-12 molts before transforming into winged adults. Depending on the species, they may live in the water for 1-3 years. They are prized bait for many fisherman… though caution is advised since they can deliver a wicked bite with their strong jaws.

Nymphs of dobsenflies are known as hellgrammites

Nymphs of dobsonflies are known as hellgrammites

Hellgrammite adults are called DOBSONFLIES. When it is time to pupate, they leave the water and find a suitable spot under a rock, log or other protective structure. There they spend 1-14 days in the soil before shedding their exoskeleton to become a pupa. They will remain in this stage for 7-14 days. Interestingly the emergence of adult dobsonflies in a given area is synchronous –and often  comes immediately after a thunderstorm. This is sometimes called “hellgrammite crawling” It is thought that the vibrations stimulate the emergence.

A hellgrammite in the stream with two dusky salamanders (these are tiny!)

A hellgrammite in the stream with two dusky salamanders (these are tiny!)

As winged adults, they are often attracted to lights at night. As adults they live only a few days, males shorter than females. Males live only 3 days while females might live as many as 10. In this short time, they do not eat, but simply seek mates. Females lay their eggs on the surfaces over water–such as tree leaves or bridges. When the eggs hatch the nymphs fall to the water and start the first stage of their lives.

Check out the photos below– the male is on the left. Look at those jaws! Yikes! They can inspire fear in even the strongest nature-lover!– but they do not use these to bite people, they use them to hold onto their mates and when jousting with rival males. In fact, you are safe to hold a male dobsonfly as they cannot bite! Females on the other hand can inflict a painful bite if handled incorrectly or if the female feels threatened. Maybe best just to leave them alone if you see them!


Photograph by Lyle J. Buss, University of Florida.

Click HERE to check out the next puzzler!

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10 Things You May Not Know about Damselflies

If you’re saying, “Damselfly? What the heck is a damselfly?”…read on!

Recently I featured a damselfly nymph as one of my Weekly Puzzlers. If you don’t know much about this insect, here’s your chance to learn a bit more! (Continue all the way to the end to watch some fabulous videos)

A damselfly covered in dew

A damselfly covered in dew

Many people who see a damselfly think it is just a little dragonfly, but this is not true. The two ARE related, in that they both belong to the order Odonata, meaning “toothed ones.” In this order there are 5000+ different species, with roughly a third of them being damselflies. Both have an extendable hinged lower lip called a labium that they can shoot out like a dart to grab unsuspecting prey.

Eyes of a damselfly do not touch

Eyes of a damselfly do not touch

Here’s how you can tell the two apart:

First, damselflies are smaller and more delicate-looking– less stocky–and they fly less swiftly.

Second, when at rest most damselflies hold their wings above their bodies rather than spread out to the sides, as do dragonflies.

Lastly, the eyes of dragonflies meet on the tops of their heads –in damselflies they are widely spread and not touching.

A dragonfly's eyes touch in the middle

A dragonfly’s eyes touch in the middle

Here are some facts about damselflies:

1. They have been on earth for more than 300 million years! That’s a long time. Wow, what a successful group of insects! They were here long before the birds. Some Odonata had a wingspan of 30 inches–as big as a hawk!

A damselfly snags a fly!

A damselfly snags a fly!

2. Like their bigger cousins, damselflies are FABULOUS hunters, both as nymphs and adults. As adults, they grab prey in mid-air, using their legs like a basket to catch it. In the water, as nymphs, they are also fierce predators, catching other aquatic invertebrates like mosquito larva, mayfly nymphs and isopods.

3. Just like dragonflies, they cannot walk with their 6 legs. Instead they use them for catching prey and for perching when at rest. If you look closely at their legs you will notice they are covered with small, sharp-looking bristles. These help in trapping prey in mid-air.

A damselfly

Notice the bristles on the legs of this damselfly

4. Damselflies are found throughout the world, everywhere except Antarctica. And, they can be found in just about every color of the rainbow, from turquoise, blue, green, purple, brown and gold. Which color is your favorite?

Wow, a purple damselfly! Temperature and light can make their colors fade.

Wow, a purple damselfly! Temperature and light can make their colors fade.

5. Both males and females have a long abdomen with 10 segments. Both also have clasping organs at the ends of their abdomen. Have you ever been kayaking or fishing and seen two damselflies locked together and flying around? Ever wondered about this? Yes, damselfly mating is quite interesting, especially for the female. First, the male clasps her behind the head with special claspers at the end of his abdomen, fitting into the space perfectly–like a key in a lock. Then the female bends her body upward to grasp the male with her clasping organs at the end of her abdomen. Before transferring his sperm to her, he scoops out any remaining sperm of rival damselflies. Sometimes you can see them flying around in this tandem position, known as the “wheel position.” It looks a bit like a heart, the way their bodies bend towards each other.

First, the male clasps the female behind her head.

First, the male clasps the female behind her head.

Damselflies in "wheel" position

Damselflies in “wheel” position

6. Damselflies (like dragonflies) DO have antenna. They are just so short most people never notice them.

7. Damselflies have many nicknames, including damsels, bog dancers and devil’s darning needles. This last one especially might give cause for alarm, but not to worry, these insects are harmless and do not sting or bite–unless of course you are a mosquito, fly, or other insect.

8. A cool fact that I just learned recently is that the female of many species of damselflies actually goes UNDER water to lay her eggs! She crawls down the stem of some submerged vegetation and will cut small holes in the plant stem where she will lay her eggs. All the while down there she is able to breathe because of oxygen surrounding her body and wings. When she is done, she travels back to the surface and then must be able to take off again into the air. Many damselflies become fish food during these tense moments.

dragon-9. Their eggs hatch in 1-3 weeks and will stay in the water as nymphs for 2 months up to 3 years, depending on the species. They will go through 15 molts before finally crawling up a plant stem or rock and emerging from their nymphal skin as an adult with wings. This is an amazing thing to witness! I have seen it a few times in my lifetime, and am always blow away by it. Next time I see it, I will make a point to film it so I can feature it here on my blog! Have you ever been lucky enough to witness this?

10. As nymphs they have 3 feathery-looking appendages at the ends of their bodies–these are their gills. Dragonfly nymphs have internal gills.

A damselfly nymph--notice the 3 feathery gills at the end.

A damselfly nymph–notice the 3 feathery gills at the end.

If you want to learn more about dragonflies, check out my post on these HERE, or, Check out this fabulous video from BBC Nature about the short life of a damselfly.

Hope you’re having a fabulous day! See you again soon.

Check out this video of a damselfly emerging as an adult! WOW, spectacular! Nature is so amazing! (Whether it happens in Scotland or the US, the process is the same! Don’t let the location turn you away)

Here’s a video from the BBC on damselfly mating:

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #115

So did you have any ideas for last week’s puzzler? This aquatic insect can be found throughout the world, with the most species occurring in North and South America, Eastern Asia and Northern Australia.

A giant water bug out of water

A giant water bug out of water

It is a Giant Water Bug or Lethocerus americanus. Some species can grow more than 4 inches long! but most are around 1.5 inches. Some other common names include”toe biter” and “electric light bug.” Of course the first name is easy to explain and should make you wary of handling it! I have never been bitten by one, but I have heard they have a painful bite. Their other common name, electric bug light comes from the fact that they are often attracted to lights and may show up on your front porch some hot evening.

Giant Water Bugs live in water but have wings. Many people are surprised to learn they can fly (like water striders, another aquatic insect) and will do so to find new bodies of water.

hh-2The one pictured in last week’s puzzler is a MALE. Interestingly, females glue their eggs onto the backs of their mates and the male will carry these around with him, protecting them from predators, until they hatch into nymphs. This is an unusual habit in the world of insects!

Giant Water Bugs are fierce some predators, able to kill a variety of aquatic animals including minnows, dragonfly, damselfly, stonefly nymphs, tadpoles and other invertebrates. They usually sit motionless and wait for something to come by but will also actively stalk and capture prey. When they grab something, they use their sharp beak to inject enzymes that will dissolve the body tissues of their unfortunate prey.

Do you know your animal sounds? Test your knowledge with the next puzzler!

Have a great weekend! Happy Father’s Day to all of those Dads out there!

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #114

puzzl-6360Did you get last week’s puzzler? It was a picture of a critter in water that looks a bit like a walking stick. Have you ever encountered one of these?

It is called a water scorpion and as its name suggests, is a fierce predator. Water scorpions can be found in freshwater bodies all over the world, everywhere except Antarctica. See their long tail? They use those just like we use a snorkel–to breathe air! They can grow up to 5 inches long. When another aquatic insect or invertebrate comes by, the water scorpion pierces it with its sharp beak and then injects saliva that sedates it. Yum! Sounds delicious, right?


Click HERE for the next puzzler and as always, have a wonderful weekend! See you again soon.

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Weekly Puzzler #114

Since we’re talking about creatures in the water, let’s keep going and do another. Most people would be fascinated –or horrified–by some of the cool critters that hang out at the bottom of a pond or stream.

puzzl-6360Here’s another one my nieces and nephew, who are visiting me in NC, found in the pond on the property. Have you ever seen this? Do you know what it is? Put in your guess to have a chance to win this quarter’s drawing–to be given away on the first day of summer–in just a few weeks. Check back next weekend to learn the answer!

Have a great weekend!

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #113

puzz2-2Last week’s puzzler was a bit tricky because there is another critter who starts its life out in fresh water and looks similar. Several people guessed that it was a dragonfly larva or dragonfly nymph. They were not correct, but they were super close.

The puzzler is a photo of a cousin of the dragonfly–a damselfly. They are both in the larger order of animals called Odonata, which means “toothed ones” because they have an extendible jaw under their heads. There are more than 5000 different species in the order Odonata. Some people have never heard of a damselfly but if you’ve ever spent any time around a lake, pond, stream, creek or river, you’ve probably seen them. Dragonflies and damselflies both start their lives out in the water, as an egg that then becomes what’s called a nymph or naiad. They remain in this state for a period of time before climbing out of the water and transforming into a winged adult.

A damselfly

A damselfly

Damselflies are usually smaller and more dainty than dragonflies, fly less swiftly and most species hold their wings over their body when at rest. Dragonflies on the other hand hold their wings open, perpendicular to their bodies. Dragonflies cannot close their wings. Click HERE to read more about about dragonflies.


Dragonfly nymph

Damselfly nymph

Damselfly nymph

In the water, they are also different. Dragonfly nymphs have a stout, spiky body that looks like a shield or that it has armored plates.

Damselfly nymphs are more slender and taper at the end.

Their gills are the long, flexible appendages at the end of their bodies.

Dragonfly nymphs have their gills inside of their bodies!

Do you know much about these creatures? If you want to learn more, check back next week as they will be my Creature Feature. Until then, have a great weekend! See you again soon.

And don’t forget to put your guess in to be eligible for the next giveaway drawing, which will be on the first day of summer–in a few weeks. Just use the comment box below and if your guess is correct, you will be entered!

Click HERE for the next puzzler.

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Weekly Puzzler #113

Happy Memorial Day weekend! I hope you are able to schedule some time this weekend to do something outside that you enjoy. Can you believe we’re only a few days away from JUNE? It’s amazing!

You still have a few weeks left to qualify for the drawing to win this quarter’s prize–to be given away on the first day of summer, June 21st. All you have to do is use the comment box below the puzzler to give your guess. All correct answers will be entered in the drawing. This month I will be giving away one of my new blank notebooks–which I sell at Kress Emporium in downtown Asheville for $14.95.

So then, let’s get to the puzzler!

Have you ever looked closely below the surface of a pond or stream? Ever played in the mud or used nets to grab leaves at the bottom? Did you find anything alive? Ever wonder what it was?

Lots of critters live in that mud!

Lots of critters live in that mud!

There is so much life in a body of water that most of us never see. I am about to have company for the next two weeks–my nieces and nephew will be visiting from Colorado–and one thing I can be sure of is that we’ll be looking for creatures in the pond in our front yard. When they were here two summers ago we spent a lot of time searching for salamanders and learning about the critters that live in the mud. You would be amazed at all of the animals we found!

So I thought I would kick off the weekend with a puzzler from deep under the water. This creature was found buried in the mud at the bottom of the pond. Do you know what it is? Does it look familiar? Have you ever seen one?


If you want to guess, use the comment box below. If you can identify it correctly, you will be entered in the next drawing. Good luck! Click HERE to see the answer.

And have a wonderful weekend! See you again soon.

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