More Damselflies, a Dragonfly and Checking In

Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)

Dear Readers, the blue damselflies are still flitting about the pond, but yesterday they were joined by these two large red damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula). At first glimpse one might wonder what on earth they think they’re doing? However, as usual it all comes down to reproduction. The one on top is the male, and he is holding onto the female around the neck with some claspers at his tail end. He has mated with her, and she is trying to lay her eggs. Unfortunately, if another male comes along and muscles in on the act, the eggs that she lays will be fertilised by the interloper, not by the original partner. And so, he hangs on for grim death while she’s going about the business of launching the next generation.

The large red damselfly lays its eggs on floating vegetation, and the nymphs can take up to two years to reach maturity. They are not as large and ferocious as dragonfly larvae, so my tadpoles should be fine, but any little invertebrate critters had better watch out!

At one point a massive water skater approached the damselflies, no doubt aroused by all the commotion, and it looked to me as if the male yanked the female out of the water to safety. However, as she’s the same size as he is, I’m sure she had to cooperate.

It takes a lot of energy to stay in this position for any length of time, and I’m sure that it makes both male and female more vulnerable to predation, but I’m sure that it’s a worthwhile enterprise. They will only live for another day or so, but at least they will hopefully have surviving offspring to emerge on a spring morning in a couple of years’ time.

In other dragonfly-related news, a friend of mine found this beauty on her birdbath – she lives right beside Muswell Hill Playing Fields. This is a female broad-bodied chaser (Libellula depressa) – the males are bright blue, so it’s easy to tell the sexes.

Female broad-bodied chaser (Libellula depressa) Photo by Linda Alliston

The behaviour of this species rather reminds me of bird like the flycatcher – it will find a favourite, sunlit perch and return to it time and again, hawking for insects or, if it’s a male, flying out to chase off any rivals. The female is a bit too beefy to be clasped around the neck and so the male defends her when she’s laying her eggs by hovering near her. However, it could also be that this particular female has recently emerged, and is undergoing a period of maturation: newly emerged broad-bodied chasers can apparently spend 10-14 days away from the water, presumably learning how to hunt and avoiding the attention of males until they are mature enough to start egg-laying.

Photo One by By Noushka31 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Male broad-bodied chaser (Libellula depressa) (Photo One)

And, if there was ever an advert for having some water in your garden, the broad-bodied chaser is surely a good example. When my pond was first dug and filled in February 2010, I had no idea that in May I would be sitting beside it when a female of the species zipped into the garden and landed on my pendulous sedge. I could not believe that a creature that I had rarely seen in the wild had flown down the alley at the side of the house to find some water, and was now basking in the sun like some kind of tiny metallic goddess. Never was the phrase ‘if you build it, they will come’ more true. And the photograph of the female above shows that even a birdbath will do the trick!

And finally, today, I just wanted to see how we were all doing. Personally, I am still very up and down – I am frustrated that I still have no idea when we will be able to have a memorial service for Dad, I am missing my friends, and although the palaver of social distancing has become second nature to me, I fear that it is becoming a bit of an old story around these parts. What I don’t miss is the 6.30 a.m. commute, the sense of busy-ness for the sake of it, the crowds and the noise. Since the lockdown, I have walked out in nature pretty much every day. I have really noticed the comings and goings in the garden on a daily basis, and I have been around more to see the ephemeral visitors, like the damselflies and the blackcap on the playing fields. I am relaxing into the rhythm of the everyday, and it is good for my poor, battered old heart.

But how are you doing? What’s the state of the lockdown where you are? Have you been able to get what you need? What have been the good things, and what has caused you stress? I have been able to work, so I haven’t needed to worry about money, but I appreciate how lucky I am to be in that situation. My neighbours are lovely, but in other places that I’ve lived that hasn’t always been the case, and I can just imagine how disputes and problems can escalate when everyone is around, all the time, with no escape. We are all in the middle of a massive social experiment at the moment, and who knows what will have changed when we come out the other side?

12 thoughts on “More Damselflies, a Dragonfly and Checking In

  1. Anne

    Your keen observation of nature is a delight! As for the social isolation … at this stage I feel strongly that, while commonsense precautions need to be put into place – such as working from home if that is possible, we need to get out and deal with this virus as we have with swine ‘flu and others of its ilk. I fear for this generation of school children (in this country at least) and for the many people who are now suffering for lack of food and income. Statistics from around the world seem to indicate that this bug – while cannot be vaccined away – is not as deadly as initially imagined. People were afraid – and fear of the unknown is still driving many policies – but South Africans have a delightful word to describe that enough is enough: we are ‘gatvol’ of the whole process.

    1. Bug Woman

      Hi Anne, I sympathise with your frustration – lockdown brings a whole host of problems of its own, for sure. Here in the UK we are worried that the lockdown is being lifted too soon – we have over 60,000 excess deaths since March, and many of them are not in the groups that you’d expect (though there has been a massacre in care homes, and I use the word advisedly). I was listening to an epidemiologist who explained that lockdown can only ever be a temporary solution – once the cases are low enough, you can institute ‘track and trace’ so that as soon as someone has symptoms, you can find out who they have been in contact with and persuade those people to self-isolate for 14 days. Sadly, in the UK we still have 8000 new cases per day, and track and trace won’t be working till the end of June, so I suspect we’re in for a second wave. Sigh. I wish we’d gone hard early as some other countries did – we gave up on track and trace as early as the second week in March. It seems as if every country is having its challenges. I hope that you are soon able to return to what ever the ‘new normal’ is.

  2. Gail

    We’ve been ok too. In many ways, this is a time that I’m treasuring, having this time to focus and learn and just relax. But we’re very, very lucky – none of our family members or friends has been directly affected by covid. I am struggling, though, to help my 90-year old and very stubborn aunt, who is suffering indirectly through loneliness and anxiety but is VERY hard to help. Her husband died in 2010, they had no children. I’m her closest relative but I live 120 miles away from her in Somerset. I must admit though that for other reasons this week has been a difficult one, I am so very angry with the govt. If I felt that ultimately the wrongs would be righted, I could cope better with my anger, but the past few years has shown that this doesn’t happen. I keep going back to the poem you posted in your last blog, Riasg Buidh. Real solace there, so thank you again for that.

    1. Bug Woman

      I think anger and frustration is a perfectly valid response to some of the absolute nonsense that has been happening this week, and I feel it too. And I know what you mean about your Aunt – sometimes people just won’t do what’s best for them. I guess all we can do sometimes is accept that they will make their own decisions, and try to help where we can, whilst realising that this help will be limited by our own circumstances. And I’m so glad you liked the poem – it felt like a drink of cold water on a hot day.

  3. Alittlebitoutoffocus

    Fabulous photographs! Re the virus, the Swiss have it more or less sorted. They wouldn’t create a song and dance about it, but they certainly know how to follow rules. The latest stats show an average of just under 20 new cases and a little over 2 deaths per day for the past week. Though there was a ‘spike’ yesterday of 32 new cases, which may be due to the rather relaxed approach I’ve observed since we moved into our second period of deconfinement. My wife and I are still taking no chances though and avoiding anyone and everyone. 😊

    1. Bug Woman

      I’ve come to the conclusion that all any of us can do at the moment is try to protect ourselves and anyone who comes into contact with us – we still have 8,000 new cases per day, and deaths in the hundreds. Epidemiologists seem to agree that it’s too early to lift the lockdown, so I’m fully expecting a second wave. I won’t be using public transport, and I’ll be social distancing as much as possible, given that going to the shops now presents something of a hazard. Sigh. This is where mixed messages get you.

  4. Bug Woman

    We’d already booked flights and a transfer to the hotel in Obergurgl but, as we can’t get travel insurance, Austria is asking for a Covid-19 test that’s less than 4 days old and the UK is asking for 14 day self-isolation when we get back, I think Austria is definitely off for this year 🙁

  5. Liz Norbury

    It’s my mum’s 90th birthday on June 8, and she was hoping we would be able to celebrate with her over a socially-distanced strawberry tea in the garden of her care home. But a couple of hours ago I had a call from the home’s owner, Peter, to say that we won’t be able to go ahead. He was very apologetic, but he’s extremely worried about the government’s reckless and premature easing of the lockdown regulations, which could have a catastrophic effect on Mum and the other residents when infection rates are still so high (there is already a coronavirus outbreak in the nursing home two miles away). I’ll have to explain this to Mum – I know Peter has made the right decision, but the cancellation of this birthday treat will be a huge disappointment for her.

    1. Bug Woman

      So sorry to hear this, Liz – I’m really glad that your care home owner is so responsible and caring, but this won’t be an easy thing to break to your Mum, I’m sure. And yes, the government doesn’t seem to care about vulnerable people at all. It makes me so furious. I hope your Mum is able to take the news pragmatically – folk who’ve lived to be ninety often have a very matter-of-fact attitude to life’s tribulations! Thinking of you and your Mum xx

  6. Andrea Stephenson

    The days are definitely blending into one another, but I’m still enjoying the quiet bubble of life in lockdown. We had our first proper rain for ages last night – that was a change from the endless sunny days!

  7. Pingback: A New-ish Visitor | Bug Woman – Adventures in London

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