On a sunny summer Sunday afternoon, we were sitting in our camping chairs near a clean stream, Page Creek, that feeds the Flat River. The place: Fallasburg Park; (Fallasburg) one of the many beautiful parks well-maintained by Kent County, here in Southwest Michigan.
Mary was reading, I was writing, and my camera was waiting in the shade on a picnic table.
I was also studying the surface of the stream, watching the Water Striders (see post: “Striders” 6-19-12).
Flitting above the clear water I spotted another insect I have loved for many decades:
Not only do I love the insect, I absolutely love this dynamic color combination. Don’t you too? Only the male’s body has this metallic blue-green-turquoise; the female’s body is dark brown, and non-metallic.
These gorgeous insects are 1 5/8 – 1 3/4″ (40-60mm). Found throughout North America along slow streams.
Sharp, biting mouthparts are used to cut up prey into bite-sized pieces.
Their long legs, unsuitable for walking, are used to hold insects captured in flight. Each leg has a row of stiff bristles on either side, which are held forward during flight to form a basket that scoops smaller flying insects out of the air and traps them until the claws can grasp them. In this way, they consume huge numbers of blackflies, and mosquitoes.
|(Click on any photo to enlarge)
Damselfly eyes bulge out to the side.
While Dragonflies extend their wings horizontally to the sides, Damselflies hold their wings vertically, toward the rear.
Their four wings move independently, enabling them to move forward or backward. The flight is somewhat irregular, and erratic, more like a butterfly. Whereas the dragonfly flight is faster, more direct, and incredibly maneuverable. (For more on Dragonflies, see post: “Fast and Furious” 6-21-12)
Adults feed on small flying insects, but the immature stage, called Naiads, feed strictly on small aquatic insects, since Naiads live underwater, are wingless, and do not resemble the adults.
The male curls the tip of its abdomen to deposit a sperm packet in a chamber below its second abdominal segment. Then, if the female is receptive, the male holds the female by the neck with special claspers called cerci. The female picks up the packet using the tip of her abdomen, to fertilize her eggs.
Looks like they’re right on target here; male on top, grasping the female by the neck with his cerci, and the female linking up to the right segment to collect the sperm packet. You can see a sort of heart-shape, but this is not about love. It’s about reproduction.
Observe the more transparent, brownish wings of the female here.
Later, the female forces eggs, singly, into soft plant tissue underwater. This is watercress growing along the edge of Page Creek.
This is a great look at the bulbous eyes, the bristly legs, the squarish thorax containing the flight muscles, the arching segments of the iridescent abdomen, the brownish, semi-transparent wings, and the characteristic white spot on the upper tips of the wings.
I hope you get a sunny, summer afternoon, soon, to sit streamside and witness the exquisite, metallic colors of this interesting insect. Bring your binoculars, be patient, and you will be dazzled by this delicate, dynamic Damselfly.
Black-winged Damselfly (Calopteryx maculata)
Photo Location: Fallasburg Park, (Fallasburg) Kent County, Michigan