Saturday, July 4, 2009

Winged Creatures of the Water

WALKING along a river this weekend, we saw dozens of dragonflies and damselflies flitting about. Many were of the common variety of small black damselfly with flashes of brilliant blue about their tails. Then we noticed a huge dragonfly with a wingspan of about 8cm sunning itself on a reed. Apparently there are 450 species of dragonfly and damselfly in North America, but this had to be the male widow skimmer. How to tell a dragonfly from a damselfly? Dragonflies typically hold their wings to the side when at rest, whereas most damselflies fold their wings together. Dragonflies' eyes meet in the middle, and damselflies' eyes are wider apart. Some more fun facts about these lovely winged creatures of the water:
  • Some can fly up to 30 miles per hour

  • They are carnivorous, eating among other things mosquitoes, tadpoles, butterflies and spiders

  • Some dragonflies live up to four years

In folklore the dragonfly has been a symbol of both good and evil. In Japan, it represents strength, victory and courage; while in Europe, the dragonfly was in past times considered an envoy of the devil. The Zuni tribe of Indians had a legend in which a boy and a girl were left behind after the village's corn crop failed. The boy made a toy dragonfly for his sister from corn husks. The dragonfly eventually came to life and appeased the corn maidens, who created a bountiful harvest of corn to welcome the villagers back.

The dragonfly's a timid thing,
He's very pretty, too;
His lacy wings are clear as glass
And delicate as dew.
I don't know why the dragonfly
Has such a fearful name.
I never saw a dragon
That was nearly half as tame.

1 comment:

Jodie said...

Helen, we love dragonflies! Vincent especially- he made one out of nature scrapes with Sarah at the Cabin Path, yes we have been back. Once, Brian and I where swimming in the pool and we stood like statues with our fingers pointed and they would land on our fingers. Most fascinating bugs! Thanks for sharing the verse.