Not a fairy tale, just a few of our local nymphs.
Last year we had the wonderful experience of watching a dragonfly become an adult and fly away for the first time. This spring we have been fortunate enough to have a few more close encounters with the fascinating early stage of life for these amazing flyers, the dragonflies and damselflies.
It all began early this spring with some frog eggs. Upon collecting some pond water to create a habitat for our soon to be tadpoles we realized that we also collected a damselfly nymph. We had seen them in books but this was our first experience with a live baby damselfly.
Notice the three feathery gills as the back end of the nymph. Those external gills distinguish the damselfly nymph from the dragonfly nymph. We have read that most damselflies complete their life cycle of egg to nymph on to adulthood in one year. This nymph will molt several times, becoming darker each time, before leaving the water to become an adult damselfly. These delicate predators like to eat mosquito larva, also known as wigglers, so they are very beneficial.
On Earth Day we found ourselves at a local lake and my daughter came to me with a handful of very dark spider looking creatures.
My first thought was that they looked a lot like dragonfly nymphs but they were not quite the same as the ones we had observed last summer or had seen in our books. Well, really my first thought was to freak out a little bit but I kept that to myself. I have come to expect this kind of thing from her.
When we got home we found this web site, which explained that there are two different kinds of dragonfly nymph. We had made our acquaintance with the other type of dragon nymph.
Dragonflies spend most of their life in this nymph form,
some up to two years, before becoming the adult flyers you see darting around
catching mosquitoes on the wing. We did not keep any of these lake dwelling
nymphs for observation but after a trip to our frog egg pond with her dad my
daughter returned with a dragonfly nymph. The same type we had seen last
Dragonflies spend most of their life in this nymph form, some up to two years, before becoming the adult flyers you see darting around catching mosquitoes on the wing. We did not keep any of these lake dwelling nymphs for observation but after a trip to our frog egg pond with her dad my daughter returned with a dragonfly nymph. The same type we had seen last summer.
We created a habitat for it and set out to research what we should feed it. They are described as the “ogres of the pond or stream” in this book and she suggested a bit of raw meat tied to a string for feeding. We discovered that it also eats the larva of other insects, such as mosquitoes, along with tadpoles, small fish and even other nymphs. We have tried a variety of things and it is indeed a ferocious little predator. Like the damselfly this dragonfly nymph will molt several times before leaving the water to split out of it's skin and begin life as an adult.
Many fairy tales have ferocious dragons and delicate damsels along with themes of amazing transformations. Pond life may not be a fairy tail but the stories that unfold in the pond are ones worthy of telling.
If you are interested in learning more about these amazing creatures this video is a fascinating look at the life of both dragonflies and damselflies as nymphs and adults.