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Posts Tagged ‘tattered’

As summer progress, the once pristine wings of dragonflies and butterflies become increasingly tattered and torn. When I spotted this handsome Spangled Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula cyanea) last week at Occoquan Regional Park, I couldn’t help but notice that he has varying degrees of damage on the trailing edge of all of his wings. Comparatively speaking, the damage is minor and did not seem to inhibit his activity in any way—I have seen dragonflies with much more severe damage that were still able to fly.

How did his wings get damaged? Predators such as birds or even other dragonflies could inflict damage as could vegetation with sharp branches and thorns. When I looked closely at this dragonfly’s abdomen, I also noticed scratches there, which made me think of another potential source of some of the damage. It is now the prime season for mating and like most male dragonflies, this dragonfly is vigorously trying to do his part to perpetuate the species.

Dragonfly mating can be rough and could be the source of some of the visible damage. The final photo shows a mating pair of Spangled Skimmer dragonflies and, judging from the locations of the damage to its wings, the male in the first photo appears to be one of the participants.

In case you are curious about identifying this dragonfly species, the white “stigmata” on the trailing edge both male and female Spangled Skimmers, i.e. the “spangles” responsible for its common name, make this species an easy one to identify.

Spangled Skimmer

Mating Spangled Skimmers

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I don’t know if this Blue Dasher dragonfly is long in the tooth (do dragonflies have teeth?) or has simply had a tough life. How do you tell the age of a dragonfly? In any case, his wings are tattered and torn to such a degree that it is surprising that he can still fly. Yet I seem to detect a smile on his face, a reflection of contentment. (Yes, I know, I am guilty of anthropomorphism.)

Tattered wings,but still able to fly

I have been thinking about aging ever since Sunday when I read a wonderful column in the Washington Post by John Kelly entitled “You can learn a lot about growing old from a dog.” Kelly describes how the accelerated aging process of his dog has made him more conscious of the fact that he too is growing old. I recommend the article to all, but want to highlight the final paragraph of the column. Kelly concludes:

“Aging is unknown territory for each of us, despite the fact that humans have been doing it forever. I think there are worse ways to spend your final years than napping next to someone you love, dreaming of what was and what still might be.”

I doubt that this dragonfly will end his final days in peace and contentment like Kelly’s dog, but it is my fervent hope that we can accept the infirmities of growing old with grace and patience, and can focus—as this dragonfly appears to be doing—on the things that we are still able to do, on contributions that can make this world a better place.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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