Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dragonfly Love

 Sometimes you simply push open a door and there it is, love in all its glory.
 This, however, is not what you think. The "bedroom" is the Farmersville-Jackson Twp. Pond and the love, if one can stretch the definition that far, is between two blue-thoraxed insects: dragonflies.
 I have photographed them for years and often see the "green darner" (though decidedly blue in my mind) flying together in an unusual display of sex called tandem linkage. Anyone who has ever spent time beside a pond in the summer has seen this: two large dragonflies connected together and displaying an unusual ability of aerodynamic acrobatics even when entangled.

Green Darner Dragonfly

 While I was watching numerous such displays, one couple decided to rest (though that is not truly the word for what they were doing; ... at the least, they were no longer flying). They landed nearly at my feet.

 Their gossamer wings, shining like cellophane in the muted sunshine, look as though they might snap under pressure. They're quite hardy, actually. Only a few minutes before I walked across the bridge and bent down to extricate a darner from a spiderweb. He fluttered back and forth as I poked the strands of web with a key, slowly breaking those that held him tight and allowing me to lift him - still wrapped like a mummy - onto the top of the wooden rail where I could work more carefully. At last he was free, but spent from his work. He dropped to the ground where he seemed to catch his breath.
 But these two (pictured above) had another breathless activity in mind and I stood there watching them some minutes before venturing closer. Usually they take off at the slightest provocation.

 As close as I got was for this picture. My guess is that is the female in front as her sex organ is at the tip of her abdomen while his is beneath his second body segment. Want full details of how it all works? Read this wonderful essay on dragonfly mating.
 After I took the picture, the pair decided enough was enough, and took off in a flurry. At first it seemed rather uncontrolled flight (for how is one to tell the other which direction to go, especially while still copulating?) but then they settled into a still-erratic but coordinated flight.
 It is a rather hearty sight on such a hot and humid afternoon. The world's aflutter and the shades are left wide open for all to see.

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