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Damsels & Dragons

Recently my son was photographing nature by our pond; he photographed several different types of dragonflies. This got us wondering just how many different types there were. So the search began. When you see a dragonfly, the images of a large fierce flying insect quickly flitting from place to place come to mind. Though dragonflies/damselflies are excellent predators and have a ferocious appearance, they are harmless to people. They do not sting, but they are serious predators of flying insects such as mosquitoes, gnats and midges. So dragonflies/damselflies are great to have around. During this time of year you might see large swarms of dragonflies congregating in one area. There are several explanations for this phenomenon. Some species of dragonflies congregate just before they migrate south for the winter and/or there is a large swarm of tasty insects that they are dining on. Whatever the reason a flock of these fast flying insects are sure to catch your eye. There are over 5000 species of dragonflies (larger body type) and damselflies (smaller body type) and are members of the order Odonata. However, there are only 435 species native to North America and roughly 146 species in Ohio. They all have two sets of wings and can reach speeds of 30mph. They are also one of the most streamlined and aeronautically precise insects in the world.  Dragonflies position their legs in such a way so they can scoop up mosquitoes as they fly. Their large compound eye gives them nearly 360-degree vision. The males are very territorial and defend their space with great vigor.  The life cycle consists of three stages: an egg, a nymph, and an adult. The females lay their eggs in water, sediment, or on submerged aquatic plants. After hatching, the larva molt 8-17 times lasting from one month to up to five years depending on species and environmental conditions. The larva climbs out of the water attaching themselves to structures sticking out of the water, where a metamorphosis occurs and they emerge as either a dragonfly or damselfly. The lifespan of most adult dragonflies/damselflies is from 2 to 4 weeks depending on the species. A good field guide can be helpful in identifying the different species. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has an excellent field guide and it is free. The Beginner’s guide to Dragonflies by Stokes is also an excellent reference. These beautiful creatures can be seen at any local pond or lake. On a sunny day go out and enjoy counting the different species in Nearby Nature!

October is a great time to visit Camp Hi Canoe Livery in nearby Hiram, Ohio. Located on the beautiful upper Cuyahoga River, Camp Hi offers 5, 7 or 10 mile canoe and kayak trips. This portion of the Cuyahoga River is designated a State Scenic River. Autumn is a wonderful time of the year to be on the river. The foliage show from the woodland banks is spectacular and you may be visited by a Great Blue Heron, beaver, Belted Kingfisher, Painted Turtles, Water Snakes, and perhaps even the playful River Otter. Call Camp Hi for river conditions and reservations at 330.569.7621 or visit them at  www.camphicanoe.com. Camp Hi is located at 12274 Abbott Rd., Hiram, Ohio 44234.

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