Posted by Mary Small, CSU Extension Colorado Master Gardener CoordinatorI regularly scout in my backyard. No, I’m not building a campfire or setting up a tent. Rather, I look around to see what’s going on out there in terms of pests, plants and plant growth.
My most recent “find’ was this beautiful dragonfly – a female Widow Skimmer. She was just hanging out on a spent daylily stalk. Widow Skimmers are so named because after they mate, the male takes off, leaving her to lay the eggs by herself. Usually dragonfly males stick around and “guard” the eggs for a while.
|Widow Skimmer Dragonfly|
Like all insects, dragonflies have 6 legs – but they can’t walk! The dark wing mark toward the outer tip of the wings acts like a weight to help stabilize the insect while flying. It dampens the wing vibration. The costa, the outermost “leading edge” of the wing is a vein that helps the insect “slice” through the air while in flight.
The term “eating on the fly” or “eating on the run” may have developed around dragonfly feeding habits. They capture their insect prey while in flight and consume it while in flight. They eat a variety of insects including mosquitos, gnats, flies, bees and even other dragonflies.
|Posing praying mantid|
Many believe mantids are voracious predators of “bad” insects – but that’s simply not true. While they might eat some “bad guys”, they just as easily might not. They prefer faster moving insects to slower aphids and caterpillars – and those insects that are within their reach. Mantids will ambush or even slowly stalk their prey. They grab the prey with their front, spiny legs so quickly that it’s difficult for humans to observe! I may have caught this one waiting for dinner to come along, but it sure was posing nicely in the meantime.