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Urban Science Adventure: Eye Spy Dragonflies!

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

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Have you seen a large beautiful flying insect hovering nearby? I mean glorious and sparkly greens and golds or black and blues, maybe with a little touch of yellow or violet.

If you live by water, or know where a nice creek, pond, or lake is, you just may see dragonflies!  Dragonflies are beautiful creatures with two sets of wings.  Do you know what they like to eat?  Other bugs!  They are so quick, they can catch a fly or moth out of the air and enjoy the meal perched on a comfortable plant nearby.

This dragonfly is dead.  I found it on the lawn of a friend’s house, still in great condition.  Dragonflies are wetland bugs.  They live near water where the females lay eggs.  The juvenile stage of dragonflies (and the closely related damsel fly) are called nymphs; and these little alien-looking bugs live in the water until they become mature exoskeleton-having, wing-bearing adults.  You can always tell a dragonfly because of its large size and when it lands, it holds its equal-sized double wings out, like the picture above.  And they come in a variety of pretty colors.

The next time you are near the water, or perhaps after a fresh rain or you’ve watered your lawn, be on the look out for dragonflies. Remember: they are eating all the flies around there.  Don’t let the colors fool you – they are nature’s pest control!

Be sure to leave a comment and fill me in on your Urban Science Adventures!

- From the archives with contributions by CaTameron Bobino

DNLee About the Author: DNLee is a biologist and she studies animal behavior, mammalogy, and ecology . She uses social media, informal experiential science experiences, and draws from hip hop culture to share science with general audiences, particularly under-served groups. Follow on Twitter @DNLee5.

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

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  1. 1. The Dude 11:44 am 08/5/2014

    I bet most people think of dragonflies as living in lower elevations, but they also thrive in the mountains. This weekend, at dusk, I observed thousands on a little lake at about 10,000 feet, hovering over the water, with trout jumping up to catch them. Not having a dragonfly pattern with me, I was powerless to land the trout. Very cool.

    Link to this

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