Friday, June 13, 2014

Dragon from the black lagoon

My coconut swirled the first time I ended up with an alien looking creature in my hand while cleaning my pond.  It startled me and I involuntarily flung it back into the pond muck.  
Holy crap, what was that?
I had not put any such thing in my pond!

The next time I cleaned the barrel pond of years ago, I was on guard for the bizarre looking stranger.  Sure enough, I scooped up another one in the black muck from the bottom of the barrel.  This time I held it long enough to identify it...a dragonfly nymph.
Of course!

Cover this dude in black muck and it adds to the "get that out of my hand" signal my eyes sent to my brain.

The legs are locked into the position the nymph was in, as it as it hung onto the reed and arrived in the world out of  its waterborne life. The legs also take on this shape when while flying and the dragonfly catches its prey.  The legs create a cage around the caught insect so it cannot escape.  

Dragonflies are thought to be sinister in Europe and in some areas of the Southern U.S.
But for Native Americans, the Japanese, the Chinese and many others, dragonflies are admired and respected. 
I side with those who see these agile fliers as a symbol for courage, strength, swiftness, agility, and happiness.
Dragonflies symbolize the wisdom of transformation and adaptability in life.
The Japanese have a common name for almost all of the 200 dragonfly species that are found in Japan.  I don't even know the common name of the dragonflies in my own pond.  But I'm delighted they grace my garden.

Dragonflies are harmless.  And they are fascinating. 
Their eggs are laid in water and the larval stage, when they look so creepy to me, lasts 2 - 3 years, but can be up to 5 years.
When the nymph is ready to metamorphose into an adult, it climbs out of the water and up a reed.  Exposure to air starts the breathing process.  The larval skin splits and the dragonfly crawls out.  
I recently saw a nymph fresh out of its exoskeleton, as it hung on a pond plant reed while its 4 iridescent wings dried and hardened. 

What a packing job!  That dragonfly was inside this casing.  The abdomen was packed in like a telescope.  

You can see the bulbous eyes well in this picture.  These eyes contain as many as 30,000 lenses, which along with the wraparound feature give the dragonfly nearly 360 degree vision.   These eyes help the dragonfly intercept their prey mid-flight with a 95% success rate.   Also visible is the opening where the mature nymph emerged as a dragonfly.

These delicate, yet powerful, 4 wings each move independently of each other.  Dragonflies can propel themselves in 6 directions--up, down, forwards, backwards, and side to side.

Next time I play "Super Heroes" with my grandchildren, I am going to be 
Ball- of- Fire- Dragon.

 My super powers will be:
I am a fast and powerful helicopter-like flyer.
I can fly upside down, if necessary.
I can fly further than any other insect.
My jaws open as wide as my entire head.
My hinged & serrated jaws immobilize & mash.
I have 30,000 lenses and see things in ways humans can't.
My legs curve around my prey to create a cage that prevents escape.
I calculate to intercept my prey.

Super powers, yes.  But not fictional. 
Mosquitoes and flies don't have a chance.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

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