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Outdoor news

Mother of dragonflies comes calling

Magnificent mosquito-eating creatures always welcome at family backyard parties
By Ken Waltz | Aug 23, 2020
Courtesy of: Sarah Waltz A significantly-sized dragonfly lands on the screen at the Waltz residence in South Thomaston.

South Thomaston — One of the largest dragonflies seen in my neck of the woods came in for a landing on one of my door screens Friday, Aug. 21.

And, looking at the size of the insect, that has to be bad news for mosquitoes in my yard.

Yah for us.

With the Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head a few miles away, we were not sure if the insect was simply a small plane that had lost its way to the landing strip.

It was a beautiful sight to behold as the six-legged, four-winged creature clung to the door screen (see above photo by my wife, Sarah).

Like most Mainers, it is common to see dragonflies navigate back and forth across a property looking for food and, in my yard, they usually find a smorgasbord of mosquitoes to devour.

That is good news for us humans, who are always on the menu of the seemingly ravenous female mosquitoes who want nothing more than to suck our blood.

Most of the beautiful dragonflies seem smaller, but this creature was one of the largest we had seen up close. It must have been the king/queen of all dragonflies. I was thankful it did not breath, you know, actual fire or look at me as its next succulent insect treat.

Our dragonfly measured 4 1/4 inches wing to wing tip and three inches from head to the tip of its tail/appendage.

I have seen it fly around the yard for days but it has not made another landing on one of screen — yet.

In a quick Goggle search, I learned: Modern dragonflies have wingspans of only two to five inches, but fossil dragonflies have been found with wingspans of more than two feet. Some scientists theorize that high oxygen levels during the Paleozoic era allowed dragonflies to grow to monster size.

In the Paleozoic, the time of giant insects, 100 million years before the dinosaurs, during which insects also had their T-Rex: Carboniferous and Permian giant dragonflies that terrorized the skies of those times, sometimes call “griffinflies.”

One dragonfly, Meganeura, that lived 300 million years ago in the huge equatorial warm forests that at the time covered the center of France. It was almost 19 inches long and had a 30-inch wingspan.

Now, there are only a handful of dragonfly families that occur in New England (such as skimmers and darners), but there are about 200 species among those families in the region. The largest dragonfly in New England is the green darner, which is more than three inches long.

Insects in the Order Odonata, damselflies and dragonflies, are a conspicuous component of Maine's wildlife diversity. Presently, 158 species have been documented in the state, comprising nearly 36 percent of the total North American fauna.

They often are seen flying rapidly over streams and lakes, or through gardens at dusk, often following regular flight paths every day.

At the shortest the life cycle of a dragonfly from egg to the death of the adult is about six months.

If you know the type of dragonfly pictured above, send info to kwaltz@villagesoup.com.

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