Insects In Flight

Friday, September 25th 2020

One of our frequent visitors, Andrew Gillings,  set himself the task of photographing a dragonfly in flight. This is quite a challenge as dragonflies are amongst the fastest and most manoeuvrable flying insects.

Hawker dragonflies have a top speed of about 36km/hour and damselflies about 10km/hour; they can flap their wings at about 30 beats per second.

As well as forward flight, dragonflies are able to fly sideways and backwards and to change both the direction and speed of flight rapidly.

The wings of dragonflies are not flat. Some parts of the wings are more flexible than others due to the arrangement of their wing-veins. This clever design allows the wing to twist and adapt its shape in flight.

Andrew watched two darters ovipositing (egg laying) and was fascinated as they appeared to flick an egg from a few inches above the water which created significant downwash on the surface. If you look carefully at the next picture you can actually see the egg landing!

Immediately after this shot, a Southern Hawker appeared from nowhere and seemed to attack them hitting them several times.  A Southern Hawker had already dropped what looked like a mayfly on a previous flypast so perhaps it saw them as an alternative dinner! This is not surprising as adult dragonflies prey on insects, especially small flies and larger species will also take butterflies and smaller dragonflies. The wings are bitten off and discarded, but the rest of the body is eaten.

Away from the water, Andrew decided to capture a less gruesome and more serene image of a Brimstone butterfly in flight. He was concentrating on the Brimstone so much that he only noticed a bee flying in formation when he put the pictures on his laptop!

Our thanks to Andrew for sharing these incredible photographs, he definitely achieved his goal!

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