Dragonflies

Brooklyn Bridge Park is now open at its northern end, in the shadow of the great bridge.

Here small pools and streams, part of the park’s landscaping and drainage system, are newly planted with a host of plants. And what freshwater body is complete without dragonflies? Recently, under a hot sun, I watched twelve-spotted skimmers, black saddlebags, blue dashers, green darners, Carolina saddlebags, and several species unknown to me zipping about.

Where did they come from? The watercourse has only bloomed for the first time this summer. Did dragonflies scouting along the East River find the habitat? Were eggs brought via water, sediments, or plants (all places you’ll find dragonfly eggs) transplanted into the park? The populating of habitats is an interesting study… islands in the Pacific that have been completely stripped by volcanic explosions have been live labs for the growth of life in isolated places. A duck, for instance, can transport all sorts of life forms via the mud on its feet.

New and exiting for me, I saw several dragonfly exuviae on this excursion.
These are the exoskeleton husks of the insects’ larval or nymph stage.

Nymph dragonflies are aquatic; they are also voracious beasts, sometimes attacking and eating creatures larger than themselves. They molt 8-17 times in the course of their growth. When, finally, stuffed to the gills – larval stage can last a month, or up to five years, depending on the species, of which there are 5,500 in the world, 300 in the U.S. – they crawl out of the water, up reeds and grasses and other upright objects. There they hold on tight. It’s metamorphosis time. Like cicadas, the adult form erupts out of the exoskeleton. Abdomens stretch, wings unfurl, and the dragonfly as we know it – four-winged, long-abdomened, large-eyed, an amazingly agile flier and hunter – is “born.” They’re off: to eat and mate and begin the process all over again.

4 Responses to “Dragonflies”


  1. 1 amarilla September 14, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Amazing exuvia shot there, showing where the seam ripped and the torn threads lay slack. So amazing! Packs a wallop! Wait, what is a wallop?

  2. 3 juicyplanet September 14, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    They’ve been ALL OVER Chicago this year. It’s so strange.


  1. 1 Life Aquatic « Backyard and Beyond Trackback on April 17, 2012 at 7:47 am

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