Ladies of the Day

This is a tale originally published by Loret T. Setters on April 3, 2015 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com.

A gal from April 2015 resting on some native rush.
A gal from April 2015 resting on some native rush.

Notwithstanding their common name, I’ll start by clarifying that they aren’t all ladies.  After all, in North America the order odonata need male and female to reproduce. I’m not clear how these insects acquired their common name.  Damselflies are an interesting group of insects. Predatory in both larval and adult stages, these are insects you really want to visit your beautiful wildlife garden since mosquitoes are on the menu.

Male Citrine Forktail Damselfly
Male Citrine Forktail Damselfly

Pretty much attracting damselflies (Suborder Anisoptera) goes hand in hand with attracting dragonflies (Suborder Zygoptera).  They have similar needs.  Water source, no pesticides and some dry brush as landing stations.  They have slightly different looks which makes differentiating the suborders pretty easy.

How tiny are they? this one is on the seeds of Ticktrefoil (Desmodium sp.)
How tiny are they? this one is on the seeds of Ticktrefoil (Desmodium sp.)

This is the Citrine Forktail (Ischnura hastata) one of the Narrow-winged Damselflies (Family Coenagrionidae).  The Citrine Forktail is said to be the smallest damselfly in North America.citrinedamselflyHatPinApr2014This species behaves a little differently than a lot of odonata.  I often see them far away from the water, landing on grasses in the meadow.  This year they are in record numbers at my place.  I sometimes see 3, 4 and 5 at a time often just before dusk.  Considering that they are about an inch or less long, it is pretty amazing that I can see them at all.

Mom heads out on her own to lay the eggs
Mom heads out on her own to lay the eggs

Unlike many damselfly species, the Citrine Forktail pair doesn’t stay together in a copulating posture while laying eggs.  Mom goes it alone, laying eggs on vegetation on or near the surface of the water.

she lays eggs on vegetation very near the water
she lays eggs on vegetation very near the water

The color variations on this species are vast.  There is an orange female and an olive female (which sometimes looks pale blue to me).  The males have yellow abdomens with greenish color bodies/heads.

laying eggs
laying eggs

It is nice to see this delicate insect flitting from sedge to sedge. And knowing that they may be munching on some biting insects in the process makes them a personal favorite in my beautiful wildlife garden.

Olive colored female on Florida Native Plant Southern Bayberry; Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera)
Olive colored female on Florida Native Plant Southern Bayberry; Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera)
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