Dear Readers, earlier this week I saw my first large red damselfly. Or, to be more exact, I nearly squashed one when I reached for the handrail, and saw it whirling away like a miniature helicopter. I knew that they were the first of the dragonflies to emerge in this part of the world, but for some reason I never connected their appearance with the fact that they had actually hatched out in my pond: I assumed that they’d flown in from somewhere else.
When I went for a wander this evening though, there were not only half a dozen damselflies hiding in the marsh marigold and reclining on the figwort, there were signs of what had happened.
High up on the stem below is the exuvia of a damselfly – the skin that it has discarded as it emerges and turns into the adult insect. The nymphs of this species live on the bottom of the pond for two years before emerging, but they can fly around all summer, so at least they have a few months to enjoy their time in the sunshine. The time when a dragonfly nymph is transforming into an adult is the most dangerous time of the animal’s life, so it’s good to see so many adults about. Beneath the exuvia at the top, you can see a nymph that is probably waiting for its turn to emerge. I shall check in the morning and see what’s happened.
It will be interesting to see what happens next. Last year, males set up territories around the pond, and spent lots of time patrolling, checking out visitors and either trying to mate or indulging in ferocious dogfights. You might remember that there were several mating pairs, and apparently the sight of one pair mating can encourage others to do the same.
Ponds really are examples of ‘if you build it, they will come’ – I feel so lucky and so privileged to be visited by so many creatures, and to have had the opportunity to make a home for them.
But to complete my evening, I was looking at the figwort and thought that I could see a big fat bud. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a small rose chafer beetle, one of my very favourite insects (yes I know you aren’t supposed to have favourites, but look at it! Who could resist?). Apparently the grubs feed on rotting wood, of which I have an abundance in the form of some oak sleepers at the back of the garden that are gradually disappearing, so maybe that’s where this little one came from. It looked very snug curling up in the figwort leaves, and so I left it to rest and grow nice and big. Hopefully it will be very impressed when the angelica blooms…