About the SA Blog Network

But Seriously…

But Seriously...

Conversations with a science comedian.
But Seriously… Home

Insect Paparazzi: Eye of the Dragon

Email   PrintPrint

Dragonfly - Blue Dasher

I rarely get to shoot dragonflies as they hungrily patrol their airspace, never stopping to rest.

But sometimes they alight and, when they do, I’m there, camera in hand. This one is a Blue Dasher, scientific name Pachydiplax longipennis.  And, no, that species name, longipennis, actually means “long wings.” Sorry.

I’ve noticed, when disturbed by my approach, dragonflies have a tendency to return to the exact same perch. They’ll fly off, circle around, and come right back to the same spot. So, if I’m patient and I move slowly, I can gradually approach, closer and closer, shooting as I go. Til I’m as close as my lens will focus, which is about 3.5″.

Dragonfly - Blue Dasher

I always wonder why they trust me – or, allow me, anyway – to get so close. Might I not be a predator? Clearly, they can see me with that big eye that never blinks. Why don’t they fly away?

In this third picture, the extreme closeup, you can see the ommatidia - the individual units which make up the compound eyes of some insects, including dragonflies. Each ommatidium is a like a single pixel that makes up the dragonfly’s visual world, and some dragonflies have nearly 30,000.

Dragonfly Eye - Blue Dasher

Brian Malow About the Author: Science comedian Brian Malow engages in lively conversation with scientists and writers for his own amusement and yours. Follow on Twitter @sciencecomedian.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Previous: Insect Paparazzi: Leafhoppers! More
But Seriously…
Next: Cosmos: The Second Coming

Rights & Permissions

Comments 4 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. Neeroc 10:22 am 07/17/2013

    Love these! I too have noticed they tend to come back to the same spot, and last night, one returned, with a fly! I got to document, with photos and a bit of video, the meal – here is the set from my point and shoot if you’re interested:

    Link to this
  2. 2. Sean McCann 1:12 pm 07/17/2013

    Nice! The visual system of dragons is truly a marvel.

    Link to this
  3. 3. Brian Malow in reply to Brian Malow 4:55 pm 07/18/2013

    Truly! I read that each ommatidium is connected to the brain by its own neuron.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Brian Malow in reply to Brian Malow 4:55 pm 07/18/2013

    Very nice! I like the video clip. I’ve shot some video, too, but not much. I need to shoot more. And I love the head-on shot.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Scientific American MIND iPad

Give a Gift & Get a Gift - Free!

Give a 1 year subscription as low as $14.99

Subscribe Now >>


Email this Article