Four-spotted skimmer. (Strange Ones/Wikimedia Commons)

The Nature Nut

Rosamund Pojar

I saw several adult dragonflies of one species just emerging from the larval stage at Tyhee Lake the other day. It is probably my favourite because it is easy to identify. The body is brown and each of the four wings has a dark brown spot on it earning it the name four-spotted skimmer or chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata from quad for ‘four’ and macula for ‘spot’) in Europe.

When they are newly emerged, the wings look wet and shiny in both dragonflies and the related damselflies. They emerge from larvae that have spent the past several years underwater eating aquatic creatures. The larvae remind me of miniature pre-historic monsters and look nothing like the adult stage.

Adult dragonflies have very large compound eyes and very good eyesight. They also have powerful jaws and can try to bite but are usually not strong enough to puncture human skin.

The adults hunt and eat mosquitoes, gnats, and other flying insects either around a small pond or away from the water in meadows and clearings.

The males constantly patrol a selected part of the habitat, fight off other males and often return to the exact same perch again and again. Once they have mated, the males will fiercely defend the area while the female deposits eggs on aquatic vegetation at the water surface.

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Four-spotted skimmer. (D. Gordon E. Robertson/Wikimedia Commons)