Friday, November 21, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Tuleyome Tales: Hang around water to spot dragonflies

Damselflies are smaller than dragonflies, and when they land they fold their wings neatly against their backs. Mary Hanson/Courtesy photo

By
From page A5 | August 04, 2013 |

By Mary K. Hanson

You see them all over the region this time of year, wherever there’s a slow-moving or still body of water nearby, flitting around on specialized wings sometimes in excess of 30 miles per hour. They’re sometimes called “water witches” or “fairies spinning needles,” but most of us just call them dragonflies and damselflies.

One of the most common dragonflies you’ll see this time of year is the flame skimmer. Their bodies are up to 3 inches long and are fiery red-orange in color (including their eyes and the veins in their wings). Males are generally brighter in color than the females.

Kathy Biggs, an expert in California odonates (dragonflies and damselflies), says you’ll most likely find the males nearer the water, and the females farther inland. To catch a photo of a male flame, Biggs suggests, just hold a stick down near the water’s edge. Perching-sticks attract males, who may come and sit for a while to survey their territory.

“Even if he flits away immediately, be patient; there’s a 50 percent chance he’ll come back,” Biggs says.

Some species of odonates can live up to sox years, but the majority of their lifetime is spent underwater as voracious nymphs called naiads. The alien-looking wingless naiads will eat just about anything, including fish and tadpoles that are bigger than they are.

When mature, the naiad will climb up onto the stem of a nearby plant, shed its skin (called exuvia) and emerge as a pale dragonfly or damselfly. Their color intensifies as they grown older.

Adult dragonflies are generally much larger in size than damselflies, and when they land they hold their wings out away from their bodies. Damselflies fold their wings neatly against their backs.

You may also see pairs of dragonflies or pairs of damselflies in a tied-together formation called “in wheel”; this is the configuration they use when mating. After mating, the females generally will head toward water to lay their eggs, and the males patrol in a “hover-glide” fashion to keep other marauding males away from them.

The female flame skimmer actually “splashes” her eggs into the water so they bounce up and adhere to nearby water plants. This keeps hungry fish from gobbling up her eggs before they have a chance to develop.

One of the most prominent features of the dragonfly is its set of huge multi-faceted eyes. The eyes, which can vary in color, have as many as 30,000 separate lenses. Most dragonflies have broad-spectrum color vision and can even see into the ultraviolet range. Damselflies, like the vivid dancer, one of the species most regularly seen in our area, likewise have excellent color vision.

The male vivids are a glorious neon-blue with black bands and stripes on their bodies. The females are usually dusky tan or even chalk-white.

To snap some photos of the vivids, Biggs suggests looking for them as they bask on sunlit trails near the water and on wooden bridges.

“For some reason, they just seem to love places like that,” Biggs says.

When you first approach a vivid, it may clap its wings together as a warning for you to get away from its territory, but don’t worry. Damselflies and dragonflies don’t have stingers.

In California, there are 113 different species of odonates, and what’s extra-special for those of us who live in the counties encompassing the Berryessa Snow Mountain region is the fact that almost half of those species live right here. According to Biggs, they are easiest to find on sunny days when there is little wind, and it’s best to approach them slowly and directly (rather than quickly and at an angle).

So get out there and photograph some of these “water witches” while the summer months last.

— Mary K. Hanson is a local amateur naturalist and photographer. Tuleyome, a conservation organization with offices in Woodland and Napa, thanks the Xerces Society (www.xercessociety.com) and odonate expert Kathy Biggs for their assistance with this article. Tuleyome Tales are published monthly. For more information, visit www.tuleyome.org.

Comments

comments

Special to The Enterprise

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    UC regents approve 5% tuition increases

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
     
     
    A new home for the holidays?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    California unemployment steady at 7.3 percent

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Yolobus will reroute Saturday morning for Turkey Trot

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Help feed the hungry at Saturday’s food drive

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Sierra Club calendars on sale Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Explorit: Lecture illuminates state water bond

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A3

     
    Apply now to take Master Gardener training

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Volunteers sought to advocate for kids

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Village Homes gets crafty

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    .

    Forum

    Nowhere to go, nothing to do

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

    Council misses an opportunity

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Together we can do so much

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Have you read this book?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    We DO have a water shortage

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Davis voices concerns over new oil-by-rail proposal

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

     
    Cheers and Jeers: Katehi front and center

    By Our View | From Page: A10

    .

    Sports

    LBSU takes down UCD in matchup of Big West’s best

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    UCD men get to 2-0

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Silveria has been there through thick and thin

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    Whose seniors will go out in style at Causeway Classic No. 61?

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Wire sports briefs: Kings cruise past Chicago

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

     
    Raiders beat K.C. to snap a 16-game skid

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Aggie women start 4-game homestand Saturday at 11 a.m.

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    The Purple Ones to play tribute to Prince

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1′ fails to catch fire

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    Wealth of Nations show is Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    Davis Feminist Film Festival accepting submissions

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    Come ‘Home for the Holidays’ and benefit school arts

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

     
     
    Founding pastor of UCC’s now-famous painting on display

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    Automakers debut key models at L.A. Auto Show

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, November 21, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Real Estate Review

    Featured Listing

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER1

    Professional Services Directory

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER2

    Lyon Real Estate

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER3

    RE/Max Gold

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER4

    Kim Eichorn

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER5

    Joe Kaplan

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER6

    Melrina A Maggiora

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER6

    Lennar Homes

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER7

    Marcelo Campos

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER7

    Yolo FCU

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER8

    Team Traverso

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER8

    Tracy Harris

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER8

    Travis Credit Union

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER9

    Coldwell Banker

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER10

    Diane Lardelli

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER12

    Jamie Madison

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER12

    Ciana Wallace

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER12

    Wells Fargo Home Mortgage

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER13

    Malek Baroody

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER13

    Julie Partain

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER14

    Coldwell Banker

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER15

    Cynthia Gerber

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER17

    Karen Waggoner

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER17

    Jamie Madison & Associates

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER17

    Dana Hawkins & Caitlin McCalla

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER18

    Chris Snow

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER18

    Open House Map

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER19

    F1rst Street Real Estate

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER20