Tag Archives: pond

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:

Posted in Animals, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Ten Things, Weekly Creature Feature | Also tagged , , , , , , 2 Comments

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 #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?

puzz2-2

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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Quote of the Week #57: Spring Fever

Do you get “spring fever?” How do you define this?

Spring peepers are tiny!

Spring peepers are tiny!

For me it is the same feeling every year.  I am afflicted with what I can only call “pond addiction syndrome.” I’ll be riding my bike or out in the car with the windows down when I’ll hear the unmistakable chorus of spring peepers, american toads or wood frogs, letting me know, as least according to them, that spring has arrived. I will feel this magnetic urge to pull over and go check out the wetland, searching to see who’s been there. Will I find wood frog eggs? Spotted salamander eggs? Will I spot a tiny peeper, calling from his perch under a tuft of grass?

I was on my bike last weekend and was traveling fast down a curvy hill when around a sharp bend I heard the spring peepers. My husband was ahead of me, out of sight and booking down the hill– the only reason I didn’t stop, as surely when he got to the bottom and I didn’t arrive shortly he would think I’d wrecked and then have to bike back UP the hill he’d just flown down. I doubted this would go over well so I left my curiosity unsatisfied.

By the way, have you ever seen a spring peeper? As you can see from the above photo, one can sit on the end of my finger with room to spare! For such a tiny frog, they have a VERY, loud voice. Their songs up close can truly be deafening.

Spring to many people means the birds start singing and the flowers bloom, but for me, it means the amphibians are awake and the air will be filled with their predictable songs. What could be better?

So this week’s quote:

A spring peeper announces spring

A spring peeper announces spring

“If there is magic on this planet it is contained in water.”

What do you think of this quote? Do you think it’s true? How do YOU interpret this quote? I would love to hear your thoughts! Use the comment box below to share.

(By the way, If you want to hear the song of a spring peeper, click HERE or a wood frog song, click HERE or american toads, click HERE. Also, I am doing a program about Amphibians tomorrow–March 18th! Hope to see you there!)

Posted in Amphibians, For My Soul, Quote of the Week, Wisdom for your Wednesday | Also tagged , , , , , , , 3 Comments

Weekly Puzzler #97

Has it been cold where you live? Here in western NC it rained hard for two days and was really warm but now things have changed over and it is back to winter and freezing temperature at night. Even so, if I visited the right kind of wetland I have a good chance of finding some gelatinous masses like the one pictured below. Any ideas about this? Do you know or have a guess about who might have left it? Have you ever noticed this at the bottom of a pond near you? Check back next weekend to see if your guess was correct.

puzzl-0008

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Weekly Puzzler #58

woodpecker--2If you’ve ever spent any time by water, be it a stream, river, creek, pond or lake, you’ve probably seen these creatures. Do you know what they are? CLICK HERE to see if you’re right next weekend. Until then have a wonderful dwoodpecker-3067ay!

Here’s another picture:

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Weekly Puzzler Answer #20

puzzle-0133This week’s puzzler is a Green Frog, not to be confused with a green frog, as many of them are! Green Frogs are one kind of frog, just as Bull Frog or Wood Frogs are two other kinds of frogs. Green Frogs happen to be green, like many other frogs, which only makes it all that much more confusing!

Green Frogs are often and easily confused with Bull Frogs but once you know the difference, it will be easy to distinguish between the two. Green Frogs have what is called a dorsal lateral ridge that runs down the sides of their bodies, from their eyes backwards. Bull Frogs lack this ridge. The top photo is a Green Frog and the one on the right is a Bull Frog. frog-0744

You can tell the sex of some frogs by looking at the circle just behind their eyes. This is called the tympanum and is a membrane that covers the hearing organ, or ears of the frog.

In males the tympanum is LARGER than the eye. In females, the tympanum is the same size or smaller than the frog’s eye. So the Green Frog above is a female and the Bull Frog to the right is a male.

So now you know! Next time you see a frog, look for the tympanum and determine whether it’s a male or female.

Oh, and for the record, there is a mosquito biting the Green Frog’s butt in the top picture!

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