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Wheel of Life

February 27, 2016

At around this time last year we posted a blog featuring the mating practices of damselflies, one of the groups of insects in the order Odonata. Well those odonatans are at it again. This time it is the dragonflies that we have watched cruising above the dam.

dragonfly DSCN8439Male dragonflies at this time of the year aggressively defend a territory, in this case a section of the dam. Any other male entering that airspace is swiftly driven away. Anything else entering the area is likely to be eaten. I was attempting to photograph a damselfly (species unknown), which is a poor flyer that usually flutters vertically into the air when disturbed. My camera shutter opened a split-second too late as a dragonfly grabbed the hapless damselfly, flew away and ate it. On the other hand, female dragonflies entering the zone are courted.
dragonfly DSCN6570In preparation for mating the male places sperm packets in an easily accessible position on its body. A mating pair is established when the male grasps the female behind the head with claspers on the end of its abdomen. The pair then grab onto a branch or stem and form what is known as the wheel position (see picture above) where the female curls her abdomen underneath the male and picks up the sperm from under the thorax.

Still attached, the pair then fly above the water body so the female can deposit eggs on submerged vegetation (pictured right). During this time the male still has to defend the female from other male dragonflies which can, given the chance, scoop out the rival’s sperm packet and replace it with their own.

And so the wheel of life rolls on.

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