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Let the dogfights begin

September 12, 2021

As the weather warms up the airspace above your local dam will again become the scene for dogfights between competing dragonflies. The largest family of dragonflies, Libellulidae, contains members with descriptive names such as Skimmers and Perchers. Perchers are brightly coloured and as the name suggests spend much of their time ‘perched’ on a reed or stick overlooking their territory.

The Wandering Percher (Diplacodes bipunctata), is one of the commonest dragonflies in Australia and is distributed across the mainland (not Tasmania), New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. They perch on objects emerging from the water and if disturbed will fly off and briefly hover before settling again. Young dragonflies are yellow in colour but mature to be red (male) or orangey/brown (female, pictured below).

The Black-faced Percher (Diplacodes melanopsis), pictured right, can be found perched near still or sluggishly moving water. Even more colourful, the Scarlet Percher (Diplacodes haematodes) has a bright red abdomen with no markings.

Male dragonflies are highly territorial. They will aggressively drive off other dragonflies and other insects that intrude into their airspace. For perchers in particular there is fierce competition for the best place to sit, used for sunning themselves and overseeing productive feeding areas. There is also competition, particularly near water for areas with the correct plant species and substrates for the female to lay eggs on, although perchers tend to lay eggs by dropping them from the air.

Watching the high-speed antics of dragonflies on a dam is a wonderful way to spend a warm afternoon. If you don’t have any of these colourful creatures around your patch of water I believe you can rent them. The process is called Hire Perchers.

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