Divebombing dragonflies hit Anna Maria Island
Some coastal areas are swarming with dragonflies.
Reid, with ESP Vacation Rentals, noted the flocks of
flying bugs on Bridge Street and near Anna Maria Elementary
School last week. She added that they are also thick
near her Snead Island home.
Gilreath, an extension agent in Manatee County, said
she visited friends at Indian Rocks Beach a while back,
and they too commented on the large numbers of the
big insects. She also has seen a bunch near her home
So what’s up?
Dr. Phil Koehler with
the University of Florida said he suspects the swarms
have been spurred by an abonormally dry spring, plus “there must be a lot of food for them to eat.”
He summed it up
concisely: “The conditions
are great for them.”
According to Wikipedia, “A dragonfly
is an insect belonging to the order Odonata, the suborder Epiprocta or, in
the strict sense, the infraorder Anisoptera. It is characterized by large multifaceted
eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings and an elongated body.”
they are our friends, the on line encyclopedia notes. “Dragonflies typically
eat mosquitoes, midges and other small insects like flies, bees and butterflies.
They are usually found around lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands because their
larvae, known as ‘nymphs,’ are
aquatic. Dragonflies do not normally bite or sting humans, though they will
bite in order to escape, for example, if grasped by the abdomen. In fact, they
are valued as a predator that helps control the populations of harmful insects,
such as mosquitoes. It is because of this that dragonflies are sometimes called ‘mosquito
hawks’ in North America.”
And they can hang around for quite a
the adult stage, larger species of dragonfly can live as long as four months.” That’s
... well, I don’t know how long in bug years, but it’s pretty long.
are some other interesting things about the little
are the world's fastest insects and, although estimates of their speed vary
wildly, most credible authorities say they are capable of reaching speeds of
between 19 to 38 mph,” Wikipedia
states, adding that some studies indicate they can travel as much as 85 miles
in a day.
According to the Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida, “There are six families
of dragonflies found in Florida, each of which is easily identifiable. These
insects are commonly found around ponds and open bodies of fresh water and
large blacktop parking lots (perhaps parking lots resemble open bodies of water
to odonates in their search for prey and mates).”
The UF IFAS folks offer some observations
of dragonflies in history.
“In Europe, dragonflies have often
been viewed as sinister. Some English vernacular names, such as ‘devil's
needle’ and ‘ear cutter’ link them with evil or injury. A
Romanian folk tale offers that the dragonfly was once a horse possessed by
the devil, and Swedish folklore holds that the devil uses dragonflies to weigh
people's souls. Another Swedish legend holds that trolls use the dragonflies
as spindles when weaving their clothes, as well as sending them to poke out
the eyes of their enemies. The Norwegian name for dragonflies is ‘Øyenstikker,’ which
literally means ‘Eye Poker.’
“They are often associated with
snakes, as in the Welsh name gwas-y-neidr,
servant.’ The Southern United States term ‘snake doctor’ refers
to a folk belief that dragonflies follow snakes around and stitch them back
together if they are injured.
“The Lithuanian word "LaumÏirgis" is
a composite word meaning ‘the Lauma's horse,’ while in Dutch, Aeshna
mixta is called ‘Paardenbijter,’ or ‘horse biter.’ In
some South American countries, dragonflies are also called matacaballo (horse
killer), or caballito del diablo (devil's
horse), since they were perceived as harmful, some
species being quite large for an insect.
“For some Native American tribes,
they represent swiftness and activity, and for the Navajo they symbolize pure
water. Dragonflies are a common motif in Zuni pottery; stylized as a double-barred
cross, they appear in Hopi rock art and on Pueblo necklaces. It is said in
some Native American beliefs that dragonflies are a symbol of renewal after
a time of great hardship.
“In Japan, dragonflies are symbols
of courage, strength and happiness, and they often appear in art and literature,
especially haiku. In ancient mythology, Japan was known as Akitsushima,
which means ‘Land of the Dragonflies.’
“The love for dragonflies is reflected
by the fact that there are traditional names for almost all of the 200 species
of dragonflies found in and around Japan. Japanese children catch large dragonflies
as a game, using a hair with a small pebble tied to each end, which they throw
into the air. The dragonfly mistakes the pebbles for prey, gets tangled in
the hair, and is dragged to the ground by the weight.”
Sounds like a new
sport at school, eh?
Also, according to IFAS, dragonflies
are among the most ancient of living creatures. Fossil
records indicate insects clearly recognizable as the
forefathers of our present day odonates go back to ... more
than 300 million years, predating dinosaurs by over
100 million years and birds by some 150 million.
“Odonates develop in water and,
in order to protect them, it is necessary to study the exact habitat requirements
of each individual species and then to protect, conserve and, where possible,
increase the number of suitable habitats. The habitat requirements of some
species are narrow and these are obviously the ones that are most at risk.
Other species ... will survive in almost any kind of water, a few even
tolerating water that is brackish. The majority fall between these extremes,
some requiring running water, some still water and some bogs and marshes.”
More critter news
Gov. Charlie Crist has intervened
in the debate about whether or not to downgrade the
status of manatees from “endangered” to “threatened.” He
asked, and received, a hold on changing the status at least until December.
The matter was to come before the Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission last week.
State environmental regulators
have been wrestling with the status change for more
than a year. Manatee advocates have said the change
is wrong. Boating lobbyists have pushed for the change,
saying that the census numbers of the slow-moving marine
mammals are climbing every year and that continued
protection is no longer needed.
Of course, all this
argument comes on the heels of the 416 reported manatee
deaths in 2006, with 218 dead so far in 2007. Many
of the sea cow deaths are due to “interaction” with
boats: 86 last year, 41 as of July 31 of this year.
The governor’s request
for a stall is probably only that. FWC commissioners will probably vote for
changing the status, at least according to most reports. We’ll just have
to wait and see.
Turtle tales to the good
Gopher tortoises received
a reprieve by the FWC last week. The state commission
agreed that the slow-moving reptiles should be upgraded
in protection to “threatened,” rather than
the previous listing as “species of special concern.”
also did away with the “incidental
take” aspect of the law regarding the land turtles, a law that allowed
developers to bury them as they built housing projects.
The new policy calls
for relocation of the tortoises to other areas of the
state that are more turtle-friendly, i.e., no development.
Egmont Key is home to a huge population
of gopher tortoises, and some scientists predicted
in the past that it may soon become the last refuge
for the big, lumbering critters. With the FWC action,
it is hoped that the prediction will prove false.