If you could get close, you’d see

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 8, 2013

Have you seen any dragonflies hovering around lately? As I stepped out of my car recently, I noticed one floating above the hood close to my windshield. I stood and watched it, remembering as a child how I always wanted one to land on my finger. One never did, but I sometimes stood motionless, waiting, watching and hoping.

In a way, the fascinating insect puts me in mind of the hummingbird because of the way it hovers. If you watch one in flight, its wing movements are so rapid that the wings blur as it whirls away. Another similarity is that it eats its weight in food in a short period of time.

If you could get close enough to a dragonfly for a really close look, you might be surprised to find it has some characteristics similar to common houseflies. Have you ever noticed how big houseflies’ eyes are? They cover most of their head and have thousands of jewel-like parts called facets—those things that help them see in all directions at the same time. That is why it is easy for them to get away from us when we chase them with fly swatters. You could say they really do have eyes in the back of their heads. Well, dragonflies have huge eyes, with 15,000 lenses, making their eyesight extremely sharp as well.

You know, the Bible tells us that God made all the creatures and told Adam to name them. Every time I see a chipmunk scurry across the yard, I picture God brushing the final stripes on a chipmunk’s back, then chuckling and giving it a little pat when He set it free into the world. I think He also must have been amused when he put some directions for female dragonflies in their nature. These female insects stay so busy flying about capturing mosquitoes and other insects for food, they do not even stop to give birth. They just lay their eggs in flight, swooping above a pond, dipping their tales in the water and leaving their egg clusters.

Several weeks later, those eggs that landed on the bottom of the pond hatch into little dragonflies called nymphs. They don’t have wings, but develop something that looks like a crusty hump hanging onto their backs. Most of the life cycle of a dragonfly is spent in the nymph stage under water. Sometimes it will be up to five years before nature signals them to change and surface. They then shed their skin, allowing the sun to harden their wings so they can fly.

Some people call these insects mule killers, horse stingers, or darning needles. When my husband was growing up, he and his friends knew them as snake doctors. They believed if you saw a lot of them buzzing around, it signaled the presence of snakes.

You can be sure that if I had heard that back then, I certainly never would have tried to entice one to land on my finger!