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Posts Tagged ‘damselflies mating’

As I was working on a post earlier today about an unusually colored damselfly, the Citrine Forktail damselfly, I realized that I had not posted any photos of the beautifully colored ones that I saw during my trip to Brussels earlier this month. They were not yellow in color, but instead were a bright red. The first ones that I saw were a couple in the tandem position that is used for mating and also, for some species, when depositing eggs. A few days later I spotted a singleton damselfly perched on some vegetation.

I don’t think that I have seen any red damselflies in Northern Virginia, so I had to do some research. What I discovered is that these damselflies have the very unexciting name of Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula). The name seems to fit, but it strikes me that the scientist must have been tired or was otherwise feeling uncreative when he came named the species. This particular species is mainly a European one with some populations in Northern Africa and Western Asia, according to Wikipedia, so I am not at all likely to spot one on my frequent photowalks here.

Large Red Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Over the last few years it has become traditional for me to be in Brussels over Labor Day weekend in early September for meetings. After I arrived today, I had some free time and captured these images of damselflies in the Botanical Gardens. Some of them are quite similar to those that I see at home, while others appear to be a bit different. As is often the case when I am traveling for work, I left my big camera at home and took these shots with my Canon SX50 HS superzoom camera.

damselfly in Brussels

damselfly in Brussels

mating damselflies in Brussels

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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How do you feel when confronted with a graphic image of mating damselflies? Are you shocked, offended, fascinated, or intrigued? Is it art or is it pornography?

I couldn’t help but feel a little bit like a voyeur as I crept closer and closer on Monday to the mating Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis) with my macro lens. As I prepared the photos for this posting, it seemed like I had extracted a couple of pages from the Damselfly Kama Sutra. What exactly were they doing as they assumed more and more acrobatic positions? It was like watching an R-rated (or maybe X-rated) Cirque du Soleil performance.

Art or pornography? Sometime in the distant past I remember studying a Supreme Court case in which attempts were made to define obscenity. With the help of Wikipedia, I refreshed my memory. It was a 1964 case and Justice Potter Stewart wrote some words that have become a guideline for assessing a given piece of work:

“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…”

So that’s it, “I know it when I see it.”

I’ll boldly contend that my photos are art. I am glad, however, that I am not a parent who has to respond to a young child’s curious question about what these damselflies are doing. The birds and the bees are simple to explain by comparison. With damselflies, I think the Facebook expression fits—”it’s complicated.”

Great Spreadwing damselflies

Great Spreadwing damselflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spend a lot of time chasing dragonflies and damselflies, but my efforts pale in comparison with those of fellow blogger and photographer Walter Sanford. He has so much experience with them that he focuses much of his attention on photographing females and mating pairs. This posting contains some amazing shots of mating damselflies in a mating position that looks like a heart, a position that I doubt exists in the Kama Sutra.

walter sanford's photoblog

I was looking for mating pairs of Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) during a photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park on 10 August 2014. Meanwhile my friend Mark Jette spotted a mating pair of damselflies.

The Orange Bluet damselflies (Enallagma signatum) shown in the following photographs are “in wheel,” in which the male uses “claspers” (terminal appendages) at the end of his abdomen to hold the female by her neck/thorax while they are joined at their abdomens. The male, orange and black in color, is on top; the female, green and black in color, is on the bottom.

The copulatory, or wheel, position is unique to the Odonata, as is the distant separation of the male’s genital opening and copulatory organs. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 377-378). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The wheel position is…

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