Something of an arty shot today: reflections of oviposition at the pond this morning. [Normal service will be resumed tomorrow!]
Oviposit: verb; a zoological term, relating especially to insects, which means to lay an egg or eggs. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word first came in to use in the early 19th century and is a combination of ‘ovi’ for egg and ‘posit’, from the Latin verb ponere, meaning to place.
Today, at Lavernock Nature Reserve, I was eating my lunch while sitting on the bench near the dragonfly pond, when this female Emperor dragonfly came along and began ovipositing, carefully manoeuvring her body to place several eggs beneath each lily pad before moving on to the next. All the while, her mate was patrolling overhead to ensure no one interfered with this important process.
There were some cracking dragonflies scooting around the pond at Lavernock Nature Reserve yesterday.
Both the male and the female Common darters posed very obligingly for me.
The male Emperor kept busy patrolling the pond and indulging in occasional rapid trysts with a female. Judging by his tattered wings, he’s notched up quite a few trysts in recent days / weeks. He only stopped once, and then very briefly, so this photo doesn’t really do him justice.
The female Emperor was then kept busy laying eggs at various spots all around the pond edges. A woman’s work is never done!
The star of the show was this gorgeous male Broad-bodied chaser. Apparently, this is very late in the season for them, and he was looking pristine, so perhaps he had only recently hatched. Whatever his story, he was a stunning sight.
We’re finishing National Dragonfly Week with a grand flourish … let me introduce you to the royalty of the dragonfly world, the Emperor (Anax imperator) and his female, who, strangely enough, is not called the Empress but rather the female Emperor. I think we need to change that!
At around 78mm (just over 3 inches) long, these are Britain’s biggest dragonflies, twice as large as most damselflies, as you can see in my photo below right (sorry for the poor quality of this one but I wanted to show the size comparison). Though they are usually found around water – canals, lakes, ponds, ditches, slow-moving rivers, I have also seen the males hawking over the wildflower areas and around the trees and shrubs at my local cemetery, where the nearest water source is perhaps a kilometre away as the dragonfly flies.
The males are very territorial and seem to be constantly on the move, flying around the boundaries of their empires, chasing away other intruding males, hunting for food (insects, butterflies, tadpoles) and even eating as they fly. After mating – also on the wing – the female lays her eggs (known as ovipositing, see above right and below) in amongst vegetation in the water. The Emperors and their Empresses can be seen flying from June to August, in southern parts of Britain, though they seem gradually to be extending their empires northwards.
For this last day of National Insect Week 2016 we have one of my favourite types of insect, the dragonfly. Meet the Broad-bodied Chasers (or Libellula depressa to the scientifically minded). If we’re being politically correct, we won’t call them fat – they just happen to be a bit wider in the body than most other dragonflies. Both male and female start off a golden brown colour, but Mr B-B C soon develops a rather dapper layer of blue powdery granules (pruinescence) which matches perfectly with the yellow dots they both have along the sides of their abdomens.
I’ve seen two pairs of Broad-bodied Chasers so far this year, both around small ponds which the males regularly patrol to ensure no intrusions into their territories. I’ve also been privileged to see them mating, a rather brief in-flight encounter, and then to see the female ovipositing – dipping her lower abdomen quickly into the water while in flight, to deposit her eggs into vegetation below the water level (as shown in the photos below). If you’re in southern England or Wales, these beauties will be around till September so go check out the show.