Dragonflies: Summer Predators

July and August are the best months to see dragonflies in Detroit’s Eliza Howell Park. When I walk among the summer wildflowers, my attention is often focused on the many insects attracted by the blooms. These are the very insects that attract the dragonflies.

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Adult dragonflies capture live prey and do so on the fly. I usually see them flying, but they do find perches. A perched dragonfly gives me an opportunity to get a look and, occasionally, to get a picture. Above is a Twelve-spotted Skimmer (three dark spots on each of 4 wings).

Dragonflies can be somewhat difficult to get to know, in part because it is not easy to get the good looks and in part because many species look similar. My species identification is usually tentative.

Below is one of the several species of reddish Meadowhawks.

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Dragonflies have large eyes and find flying insects visually. They catch smaller prey directly in the mouth and use a ‘basket” formed by their legs for larger prey.

Note the way the legs are prepared for gripping.

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Dragonflies are usually found near water (they are aquatic in the larva phase) and the Rouge River in Eliza Howell helps to account for their presence here.

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This is another Skimmer, a Widow Skimmer, a male, I think.

The next picture is of the head of a  female Widow Skimmer. In close ups like this, one can get a sense that dragonflies are indeed predators, able to grap and consume any flying insect in the park.

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Especially when they are clear, dragonfly wings appear delicate. But they propel an efficient hunter.

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