Dallas Morning News - July 8, 2021
Dragonflies and Damselflies
Who are the best fliers in the garden? Barn swallows have to be in the running – or the flying. Barn swallows, aka mud swallows, can fly just over the top of the ground or inches above water at lightning speeds and turn on a dime. They are beautiful, very graceful, quite vocal on the wing and eat large numbers of flying insects including mosquitoes. Bats should also be considered. They are a little slower doing their acrobatic insect control at dusk and at the night.
Dragonflies and damselflies are active during the day and they are impressive fliers. They are probably the winners of the best flier title. They are also important for insect pest control.
Dragonflies can be seen in several different colors
Dragonflies hold wings out like airplane wings
Dragonflies are multi-colored, strong, fast fliers, whereas damselflies are most commonly blue and tend to flit about more dainty-like. At rest the dragonfly's wings are held horizontally and perpendicular to the body, similar to the wings of a plane, while damselflies fold their wings back along their long, slender bodies.
The common name "devil's darning needle" came about because they were both supposed to be capable of stitching together the lips of wicked children during their sleep. Weird because both are completely harmless to people and pets. Adults can fly up to thirty-five miles per hour. They can lift more than double their weight, take off backwards, stop, hover, somersault, and reverse direction with full speed instantly the other direction.
Dragonflies and damselflies can also fly long distances. The large surface area of their wings enable them to use the wind to carry them and glide for long periods of time, using minimal amounts of energy.
|Damselflies are mostly blue and fold their wings in line with their slender bodies when at rest
While these delicate looking insects can fly directly to their destinations they might stop along the way at appropriate places to lay their eggs, such as puddles, pools, water features or fish ponds. One of their favorite places to hang out in our garden is on the pickerel weed foliage in our organically maintained koi pond.
Hunting behavior of damselflies and dragonflies is called "hawking." They eat several flying pest insects, including house flies, gnats and mosquitoes and will sometimes even eat old, weak, slow beneficials such as honeybees. Most importantly, they eat 300 or more mosquitoes a day.
Dragonflies and the more delicate damselflies are fascinating to watch, help greatly with insect pest control and give us just one of the many reasons toxic chemicals have no place in properly managed gardens, landscapes and water features.
How to encourage these interesting beneficials? Stop using high nitrogen synthetic fertilizers and toxic pesticides. Start using compost, earthworm castings, organic fertilizers, lava sand, green sand, Azomite, dry molasses, whole ground cornmeal and Garrett Juice. For sensible and effective pest control, plant a wide range of plants and use repellent rather than killing organic pest control products – such as garlic oil sprays.