Dragonfly excitement

8 July 2013

I’ve been having an exciting time with the odonata in my garden the last few days – that is, dragonflies and damselflies.

We’ve been seeing Broad-bodied Chasers around for a little while now – see my article on 14 June. I wasn’t, however, aware they were breeding in the pond until I was scooping blanket weed out a few days back (a daily job if I want to be able to see anything) and found I’d got a dragonfly larva which was so broad that it had to be one of this species. Then today, I’ve actually seen a female laying in the mud on the edge of some reed roots – she was hovering, bending her abdomen forward and jabbing the egg into the mud, then repeating the process numerous times.

A dragonfly question that has been puzzling me is why we haven’t seen any Southern Hawkers emerge from the pond in the last couple of years, when previously they had been regulars, usually going up around the end of May. We know they laid last year, because we say the female doing so: she laid both on the greenery around the edge of the pond, and into cracks in the bark of two logs we’ve got by the bench to serve as tea mug holders.

Southern Hawker female laying eggs 1 September 2012

Southern Hawker female laying eggs 1 September 2012

To my complete delight, we have just had two come out, which we know because we’ve just found the empty cases, which remain clinging to the reeds in a slightly eerie way (see photo below). We guess they were just later than usual, unless they are a different species: in theory you can tell from the empty cases, but you have to be an expert to do it.   I know there are still at least five large larvae in the pond, so hopefully we’ll see evidence of more emerging.

Empty case of dragonlfly larva on pond reed

Empty case of dragonlfly larva

I also spotted another dragonfly in the garden – one I’ve not seen before. I think its a Common Darter female (see below). I am finding some smaller larvae in the pond, but I’m not expert enough to tell what they are, or even whether they are of a smaller species, or are just younger: like butterflies, dragonflies do all their growing in the larval stage, so they start small and get bigger, periodically shedding their skin.

Common Darter Dragonfly

Common Darter Dragonfly

We are also getting Large Red Damselflies, and another turquoise species, which I must see if I can find a name for. If you are seeing dragonflies, do report them to the Dorset Dragonfly Group. And if you possibly can, have a pond in your garden – they may well come.

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