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A Poem for July

Change

Images of yesterday adorn my house walls,

Telling tales of long ago when life was just a ball.

The slender way I was then, how fit I used to be,

Energy bursting out like buds from a tree.

 

Middle age is here now, I’ve felt the change arrive 

It comes in many packages, sometimes in disguise. 

I shall have a new slant on life, a different point of view, 

Words that my mother said will all be coming true:

 

” Life’s good as it is, you don’t need the extra frills.

Exercise and simple food will keep you off the pills!”

Feel your heart beat today, realise you’re alive.

Do what passion tells you, don’t be scared of size!

 

So much time I often waste dreaming, staring around, 

Hesitating foolishly when there’s new ground to be found. 

Don’t assess your risks too carefully, you may never make a move

And stay in mind as you are stuck in the wrong groove.

 

Jean K Cave

by

Jean Powley

Banded Demoiselle

Photo by Jean Powley

Horse Stingers and Devil’s Darning Needles

You may wonder what the above title refers to. They are the respective old common names of dragonflies and damselflies. Both names are based on mythical origins, of which there are many about these insects. It was once thought that dragonflies sting when held in the hand and it was thought that damselflies would sew up your eyelids as you slept. Both are myths of course and neither of them do any harm to human beings.

Now is the time of year to see these beautiful insects. They can be found near water courses and lakes and rivers and you may well see them in your garden if you have a pond. Look out for them during the summer months and early autumn.

How does one tell the difference between a dragonfly and a damselfly? There are three factors involved – the position of the wings when resting, the position of their eyes and their flight behaviour. When at rest, a dragonfly will hold its wings at right angles to its body whereas most damselflies fold their wings back along the length of the body. The eyes of a dragonfly touch each other but a damselfly’s eyes are always separate. Finally, if the insect appears to be a strong flyer then it is very likely to be a dragonfly. If it has a weak flight it will be a damselfly. Because dragonflies are stronger flyers they will go further afield and damselflies being weaker flyers tend to stay nearer to water.

The Life-cycle of a dragonfly.

There are three stages in the life cycle of a dragonfly and these are egg, larva or nymph and adult. They do not pupate like butterflies and moths. The most fascinating fact about these creatures is that they spend most of their lives in water as larvae. At this stage, they may live up to two years, some more than that. Once they emerge as adults, they will live for an average of one to two weeks.

Life begins as an egg which is deposited on marginal vegetation either above the water line, on the surface or beneath, depending on the species.  After two to five weeks, or even the following spring, in some species, the egg hatches in to a larva or nymph. The larva has a voracious appetite and will eat most living creatures in a pond including tadpoles, leeches, worms and even small fish. It will spend most of its time underwater and may moult up to fourteen times before it eventually climbs up a stalk and out of the watery world it once knew.  It will then shed its last casing and what emerges is a beautiful insect. It will then rest a while to enable its body and wings to dry and harden. 

The food it lives off will be quite different to what it ate as a larva. Instead it will eat flying insects like mosquitoes, midges and gnats and larger dragonflies will take butterflies and moths. Life isn’t always straightforward as we all know and dragonflies and damselflies are predated in particular by Hobbies. The Hobby is a small bird of prey which migrates from Africa to England and Wales during the summer months. Other birds such as flycatchers and wagtails will also take dragonflies but the Hobby is a force to be reckoned with and can often be seen hunting for dragonflies over large water surfaces.

Some good places to see different species of dragonflies and damselflies are Netherfield Lagoons, and the RSPB Reserve at Langford Lowfields, near Newark.

Jean Powley

Jean is a voluntary Ambassador for the British Trust for Ornithology’s Garden BirdWatch scheme in Nottinghamshire. If you enjoy watching birds and other wildlife which visit your garden, Garden BirdWatch may be perfect for you. If you would like a free information pack about the scheme, contact Jean at jpbirds@outlook.com or visit www.bto.org/gbw

Common Blue Damselfly

Photo by Jean Powley