Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Dragonfly

It is amazing what gets my attention and fascinates me these days.  Sunday, while relaxing on the deck, I beheld a wondrous flying creature.  On gossamer wings it flew over my head several times and then landed for a brief moment on the table next to me, flapping its wings.  The sunlight gave its double wings a metallic color.  It had huge eyes and seem to stare right at me.  I decided then and there, that the creature had been appropriately named as a dragonfly.  The dragonfly, after one brief look at me, decided to fly off to a more hospitable environment.  Now, the sight of that dragonfly, however brief, has been on my mind ever since (this must be a “Golden Age” thing).  What a fascinating creature!  As a young boy, I once knew a good deal about the dragonfly.  Alas, time has taken some of that from me and so yesterday I did a little research as I thought of those fluttering wings and those big eyes.

The dragonfly has been around much longer than we have.  Their ancestors are known through fossil findings dating back some 325 million years ago.  Talk about a real Dragon-fly—these ancestors had wing spans of 30-some inches, which makes me wonder how big their eyes must have been.  The modern version of these earlier dragonflies are agile fliers and are among the fastest insects.  Their wings must be warm to function optimally, and so, they are often seen basking in the sun and “wing-whirring” to generate heat before taking flight. 

Young dragonflies, called larvae, or nymphs, are aquatic and this is why the adult dragonflies  are most often seen near streams and ponds. When I was young, wandering along the banks of my beloved brook, I saw many varieties of dragonflies.  One of the most familiar species we called the “darning needle.”  We must have picked that name up from somebody, for the term “devil’s darning needle” has been applied to the dragonfly through the ages. The name was derived from the superstition that dragonflies may sew up the eyes, ears, or mouth of a sleeping child, especially one who has misbehaved.  However, in spite of this rumor, dragonflies are of no danger to humans.  Thank goodness, my visiting dragonfly stayed for only a minute to warm his/her wings, and did not choose to sew up my eyes, ears, or mouth for my various misbehaviors.

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