Tuesday, August 4, 2009

DAMSELS DELIGHT!

Powdered Dancer (Argia moesta)
I spent an hour yesterday afternoon chasing damsels around the woodpile.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking…what will it be next? Maidens in the mulch bin? Ingénues among the box elders? Has someone been sprinkling Viagra in his oatmeal?
Nope. We’re talking bugs—insects in the Order Odonata; like dragonflies, only skinnier. You can tell the difference because the damselfly’s quad wings at rest are held alongside or above, parallel to the body, rather than the way the bulkier, larger dragonfies do it—stuck out like wings on an airplane. And speaking of bodies, they come in every hue of the rainbow—red and green and blue and orange, even purple; some are iridescent, and seem to glow like neon. A king’s ransom in jewels, flying so fast the eye can scarcely follow.
The names of these beautiful damselflies are as lovely as the insects themselves—Azure Bluet, Ebony Jewelwing, American Rubyspot, Blue-fronted Dancer, Emerald Spreadwing, Sedge Sprite, Citrine Forktail. Exquisite winged creatures masquerading as living poems.
Either a Blue-fronted Dancer (Argia apicalis),
or a female blue phase Powdered Dancer (Argia moesta)
At rest a damselfly appears fragile, harmless, as if it might exist only for its beauty. Yet damselflies, like their dragonfly cousins, are aerial predators, darting carnivores whose prey consists of small insects such as mosquitoes and midges. They are superb and deadly hunters. In fact, the damselfly’s Order name, Odonata, means “toothed ones.” Of course we gigantic humans have no worries, as a dragonfly is incapable of chewing on anything larger than the tiniest flies. And contrary to what the entomologically challenged might proclaim, damselflies absolutely cannot sting.
Damselflies begin life underwater, when a female lays her eggs in a stream or pond, bog, fen, marsh, even a roadside ditch that holds water year around. The eggs hatch into nymphs which undergo incomplete metamorphosis (that simply means they go through three stages—egg, nymph, adult, skipping the pupa stage) molting several times as they grow and develop. They might spend several years underwater before emerging as the eye-catching adult you see flying around.
Powdered Dancer (Argia moesta)
There are at least a half dozen species of damselflies frequenting the area around my woodpile—though the stack is located more than a hundred feet from the river. I’ve recently become enamored with making their portraits, though my camera technique still needs serious improvement. So far, I’ve only managed to produce reasonably good shots of a couple of species.
Also, my identification capabilities are shaky at best, not to be trusted, open to correction. When I can scrape up a few extra bucks, I intend to order a copy of The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Ohio, by Glotzhober and McShaffrey, which appears to be the best work on the subject.
Still, you don’t have to know the names to appreciate their beauty. Their graceful form and stunning colors are a beguiling delight to the eye.

37 comments:

KGMom said...

What a wonderful ethereal blue.
By the way, as soon as I saw the blog title--I knew you meant damselflies. Ne'er another thought.
See, I have read enough blogs of folks far more nature savvy than I to know what you meant.
Your hour was an hour well-spent.

Jain said...

The first has amazing detail when enlarged! Oooh, ahhh!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

Hummph! Yeah, well…guess I kinda figured it wasn't gonna fool anyone into thinking I was chasing babes instead of bugs.

They are beautiful bugs, though—gotta give me that.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jain…

Just out of curiosity…do all three images enlarge when double-clicked? I know others recently wouldn't—though I still have no idea why not or how to make it work if that's the case.

Thanks your for your ooohs and ahhhs.

Jenn Jilks said...

They are delightful damsels!
Great post. We're up to our ears in deaths & drownings this w/e.

RE: photos - I have decided not to post large ones, as the high resolution ones can be stolen. With 15,000 photos on my computer, I cannot find the time/energy or inclination to market them.

I find it really hard identifying my bugs. I have to sit down with an ID book *and* the Internet.

Wanda said...

I saw your question to Jain.
Only the first photo enlarges...I have learned that after uploading photos, to never click and drag a photo into another position while composing your post, for it looses it's connection and will not enlarge after being moved in that manner. Hope this might help.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

I'm glad you liked my damsels!

re. photos…I suppose internet image/copy theft is a problem, and therefore a worry. But I do put a copyright notice on the blog head. However, I wouldn't necessarily post my best shots without a built-in watermark or the like.

Insect identification is tough. I have a lot of field guides and such, but on damselflies. for example, males and females can and usually do look different, plus there are any number of color phases of various species—and possibly other factors and variations of which I'm blissfully unaware. What I do know is that I have a lot to learn before I can do much more than guess…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

My Lord! You may have solved my dilemma. I do click/drag photos down to place them. So okay…how do you insert them into a point within the body of text?

Wanda said...

I always upload the photos first then do the text around them or between them...plus upload photos in a backward order... beginning with the last one first and work backward.

Jain said...

Scribe, only the first enlarged... Oh! I just saw Wanda's post. That would explain things. I've had the same problem.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

Thank you again!

I do upload photos in a backward order, but after I've uploaded the text and set its font, size, and spacing—then I drag all but the top one down and place it.

Your way would work just as easy, I think, and if I'm lucky and it's not something else going on, will solve the problem. I'll certainly give it a try next post.

Again, thank you.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jain…

Hey, I have no real idea what I'm doing here…and I can always use all the help anyone cares to give. So thank you, too!

bobbie said...

Your damsels are very beautiful. And anything that helps rid us of mosquitoes are to be highly valued. But it is their beauty that pleases me most.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

What beautiful jewel-like creatures, Grizzled! No wonder you have been chasing them. And their names are so wonderful too.

I've just been catching up on a bit of reading - love your 'nodding onions' too. I confess to being an allium addict!

Jane Moxey said...

Lovely bugs, indeed. I think the placing of photos in a blog has something to do with fiddling about on the dreaded "html" tab. You have to be able to read the gobbledygook of letters which, I'm told is the "code" for whatever you're writing about or the photograph you're trying to place more artfully. Then there's copying and pasting in that HTML mode to rearrange your stuff as you would like it. I tried it a couple of times, and rather gave up, figuring that sort of perfection was better left to the experts, or professional graphic designers who do that HTML thang for a living! Your blog looks lovely and reads beautifully, so why hassle?

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bobbie…

Useful AND pretty.

I think I read somewhere that damselfly consumed several hundred mosquitoes per day—though I may be, as a friend likes to put it, "disremembering."

Frankly, I'd like them even if they were just their lovely selves.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Raph…

Wondered where you'd been hiding!

Aren't the names great? Makes you want to look or hunt or photograph. And these photos don't really do them justice. They are just so exquisite!

Those onions were neat too. Glad you liked 'em.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jane…

It's my perfectionist gene that keeps me fiddling with this layout—plus I would like for readers to be able to click on a photo of these damselflies and have them enlarge—though not too much. I notice when I go to my blog (using a different account, so like a visitor) in Firefox and click on the top photo, it comes up huge; but if I do the same in Safari, it's only about twice as big as what's on the post—much easier to see but not overwhelming. However, if I have to get in to code, I can't even spell HTML, let alone use it.

Glad you liked my pretty "bugs" though.

Bernie said...

Grizz, another lovely post. I have always loved dragonflies, their shapes, colors and the fact they eat mosquitoes and midges. I didn't know nearly enough about this species and thank you for informing me. You have one of the most interesting and informative blogs that I read....love it. Have many more wonderful hours on the river Grizz, I need the lessons....Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

I'm just pleased you enjoy the blog because I enjoy having you drop by the riverbank.

I don't know much about damselflies or dragonflies, but I intend to learn what I can. They're really neat.

I always appreciate your kind words…really I do. Thank you.

Jayne said...

Oh, I don't know... the sight of you chasing damsels around the wood pile makes me smile! :c) They ARE such beautiful little things, aren't they? So iridescent and graceful. I think your photos are splendid.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

Such imagining makes me smile, too…and gasp, though they are such "iridescent and graceful" things, and indeed pretty. Always worth a chase around the woodpile.

And the insects aren't bad, either.

Gail said...

Hi Grizz-

Oh my, the colors are SO beautiful - and I love dragonflys or damselflys as you so eloquently explained. I loved all your shared wisdom of their lives and beauty.

Thank you for being YOU!!

Love to you always
Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

They are truly beautiful—delicate, elegant, and so, so colorful. And these photos don't even do them justice! Plus there are at least a dozen other damselflies around the cottage just as pretty—though different in coloration. I want to photograph them, too, if I can manage it.

Thank you, Gail, for your nice words…as always.

Take care.

Anna said...

What a magnificent photos! You sound like me, lol, but I chase birds like that - I remember once I was chasing pillated woodpecker in the forest, glad I didn't have any spectators. Thanks for sharing information, that was useful. Anna :)

Wanda said...

It's just normal loaf type bread pans...I guess the 3 is for depth...never really paid attention to that before...

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Anna…

Hey, I chase pileateds, too. Check out a few of my older posts. Some of these damselflies are about as spooky as those woodpeckers—though others are a bit more accommodating. Thank goodness! I still need to perfect my camera technique…though I took a few shots just a few minutes ago that are better than those posted.

The difference between stalking pileated woodpeckers and damselflies, I suspect, is with the bugs you get more tries to get it right.

Glad you liked the post.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

Just thought I'd ask. Mine don't have that "3" imprinted on them. Not that it was going to interfere with my zucchini bread appointment!

Lisa said...

The image of you chasing damsel's because of Viagra sure made me laugh this morning. What a great way to start the day laughing. I was delighted to learn more about what I've always called dragonfly. Perhaps they are different, but in the same family. Thanks for the great photos too!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lisa…

Hey, I laugh at me every day, and I'm always glad to have shared the fun.

Scientifically speaking, dragonflies and damselflies share the same order, Odonta; they split off at the Sub-Order level.

For most practical purposes, dragonflies are bigger, bulkier, with a much heavier abdomen. At rest, their four wings stick out like those on an airplane.

Damselflies are small and far more delicate looking, with a slender abdomen—say the diameter of a pencil lead. Most damselflies at rest hold their four wings folded over their back and parallel to their body…not stuck out.

Both dragonflies and damselflies are hunters, eating whatever they can catch with gusto. And both are beautiful creatures—especially when seen up close; they come in every color in the rainbow.

Kathiesbirds said...

Well written and well photographed, this post is a delight to both eyes and mind. I've always wondered what the difference was between the two. They seem to hold more appeal for me than butterflys. Thanks for visiting my blog. Yours is lovely.

Kathiesbirds said...

I was just reading all your comments about posting pictures so they will enlarge. I had to learn this lessen also. Don't click and drag. They won't enlarge, but you can cut and paste. I usually do this in the html, even though I can't write code. I have just learned to identify what belongs between the brackets and then capture the whole thing and move it to where I want. What I usually do though, is upload all my pictures, then either write around them or, write my text in Word and cut and paste it around the photos. As for protecting your work, I know some people use copyscape so their work can't be copied though, I have not tried this yet. I hope this helps.

~Kathie

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Kathiesbirds…

First off, welcome to the riverbank! I'm glad you enjoyed your visit and hope you return often.

Second: not to confuse the issue, but there are a few damselflies that hold their wings spread out, rather than parallel to their bodies; but they still look like damselflies in their size and body build—i.e., think, graceful, smaller.
Both damselflies and dragonflies are just incredible in their range of colors, and both are useful in that they prey of such insect pests as mosquitoes.

They're certainly one of the most interesting and beautiful "bugs" around.

Third: Thank you for your excellent info regarding posting. I intend to try the paste between photos method on today's post. I haven't a clue re. HTML code, though I've fiddled with one the code on one of the add-ons (successfully!). I would like readers to be able to click-enlarge on some shots (these damselflies for example) to better enjoy or just see what's there.

Again, you're always welcome here…and thank you for helping me with my posting issues. BTW, I enjoyed my visit to your blog, too; it's excellent.

The Solitary Walker said...

Back from Scotland's dragonflies and damselflies... to see your ravishing beauties! Wow, great photos. (Can you get me some of that 'special' oatmeal stuff?)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

I've been wondering about you. Glad you're back—you've been missed.

Re. the "special" oatmeal…you do know you must be certified fit and have a valid license before consumption, right? Backcountry ramblers who've been larking about the highlands solo are especially at risk of overindulging—to their own embarrassment and possible reprisal by aggrieve others. You might have to sign a waiver.

The Solitary Walker said...

Not as fit as I thought I was, climbing Ben Nevis the other day... As sprightly grannies elbowed past me on the way to the top, I thought: should have done some training. Or at least a few push-ups and hoe-downs in preparation.

But, re the waiver - I'll sign anything, if it keeps you happy. Period.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

That oatmeal would have had you trampling those old grannies…of course, they would have themselves up and beat you half to death with their walking sticks.

I'll talk to the corporate lawyers re. waiver…