Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The day I discovered a Dragonfly having lunch.

I'm constantly amazed by the vast extent of my lack of knowledge when it comes to natural history.

For example, I've known about dragonflies all my life. They've always been there. If I was 299,999,948 years older than I currently am, they'd still always have been there. But I didn't know about them. For instance, I'd never considered what they had for lunch.

On a flying visit to Volehouse last week Rosie was off ahead undertaking important spaniel tasks, when she paused and started sniffing interestedly at something in the middle of the track by the entrance.

This is usually a sign that she's found a particularly alluring pile of fox poo to roll in, and since that involves much shampooing and no little displeasure from my wife for permitting dog and poo to connect, I quickened my pace to intercept before the s*** hit the spaniel, as it were.

But this was something else. As I lumbered up to her, she was actually sniffing at a dragonfly sitting motionless on the path.

Golden ringed dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii)

It was a Golden-ringed dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) but at the time, I couldn't understand why it was just sitting there allowing a Welshie to prod it with her nose. It was a sunny day, so there shouldn't have been a problem with its flight muscles. And yet there it was, as torpid as me with a  Breaking Bad box set.

I knew that when Bees became like this, they needed emergency food. Perhaps this dragonfly was starving, I reasoned.

I rather balked at the thought of trying to catch flies for it. I've seen Rosie try that many, many times; never with any success. And she's much faster than I am.

Whatever the problem, I decided that it couldn't stay there in the middle of the track. It was inevitably going to get squished by something.

So, rather at a loss, I decided to transfer it to a nearby foxglove on the basis that if it actually was short of energy maybe it would break with dragonfly tradition and try some nectar. If not, then at least it would starve to death rather than get stomped on.

And it was as I transferred it that I realised what was going on. Far from starving, it was actually having lunch.

Beneath it, trapped in its jaws and struggling weakly was a bee.

Beneath it, trapped in its jaws, was a bee

I had no idea that a dragonfly would take something as large as a bee. I'd never really thought about dragonfly food at all. I knew from much pond-dipping as a child that their nymphs were fearsome predators. But as far as I was aware, the adults were like many moths, doing all their feeding in the larval stage. (See what I mean about lack of knowledge?)

This one had clearly bitten off more than it could quickly chew, and was struggling to keep its prey under control.  It hadn't been bothered by Rosie because it had quite enough on its plate already.

Now, in the few days since I joined the dragonfly for lunch, I've noticed them more and more. I've become interested.

I've seen a Golden-ringed dragonfly deftly snatch a moth out of the air and eat it on the fly, spitting the wings out as it went.

I've started spotting and identifying different species.

I now understand that the group of them called Hawkers are so called because of the way that they feed.. Obvious, but it's one of those connections that I'd never made before.

In a single chance encounter that morning I learned something that's sparked an interest that will last me a lifetime.

And that's why it's so fantastic to see so many young people blogging so enthusiastically, passionately and knowledgeably on the Local Patch reporters site.

Because youngsters that have an interest in the natural world will never, ever be bored for as long as they live. They'll never need to occupy themselves by sitting listlessly in front of the TV, PC, VG or whatever.

They will always be able to find something in their surroundings to learn about. And that's a wonderful thing for someone to be able to look forward to.

Although, when they're old enough, I would recommend that they do a Breaking Bad box set binge. Because everybody should. Seriously.

No comments:

Post a Comment