Monday, 3 September 2012

The life cycle of a damselfly

Over the summer of 2010 we created a garden pond. Almost immediately things began to visit, but it wasn't until the late spring of 2011 that we spotted this pair of red damselflies mating in the garden. Hanging off the French Lavender, in a gentle breeze, is romantic to some.

Although I couldn't get an even vaguely decent photograph of it, the egg-laying occurred shortly after this nuptial event. I made a note in my mental diary that I must make a special effort next year to witness the outcome of all this activity.
  At the end of May this year, I spotted an empty case clinging to the side of an iris leaf. The wait was over. As I'm really not an early bird, I stayed up until dawn and then went out into the garden with my camera and a (decaff) coffee. It was a beautiful and bright morning. The city always feels so peaceful at that time of day. A perfect time to witness a miracle of nature for the first time.
    Of course, such is the law of nature, most of the activity was occurring right in the centre of the pond. Not to be deterred, I spent the next three hours with my elbows in the water and my arse in the air. The sleeves of my t-shirt acted as a very effective wick for the cool pond water so I soon felt slightly more awake. All of this was both precarious and as unstable a platform as I could imagine for macro photography. Nonetheless, it was well worth the effort.

The magic began when I spotted the first nymph swimming up to the water's surface. 

The next step, at least for one particular nymph, was to climb a leaf that was far too short for its requirements.

In the hunt for the perfect perch, others hauled themselves out of the water completely.

Once a comfortable perch had been found, the alien stuff really began...and it really is alien.

Within half an hour of climbing out of the pond, a damselfly had emerged.

Next came the 'inflation' time. Once the wings had completely unfurled, and the body lengthened, they could never go back to how they had been. The wings aren't yet clear, and the body is still translucent.

A little while longer and the body is toughening up...

In less than two hours, (maybe, I lost track of time), the nymph had turned into this magnificent beast.

Two days later, I witnessed this....

Closely followed by this....

This means that next year I will be back out by the pond, very early one morning in May. (Hopefully by then I'll have sorted out the blanket weed problem.) The life cycle of a damselfly is such a marvellous thing to witness that I definitely recommend that other people also get up early, and go and see if they can see for themselves this miracle of nature.



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