A regular column by Rachel Shaw of Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.
In bold blues, shimmering emeralds, golden yellows and bright reds, they dart and hawk across the surface of ponds and rivers. Dragonflies and damselflies only exist in this colourful form for the warmest months of the year. The largest proportion of their lives is spent underwater and hidden from view. The time they spend in the water varies depending on the species, for some it is as long as five years. It’s not just our view that they are hidden from. Camouflaged brown like the sediment or decaying leaves; dragonfly and damselfly larvae lie in wait to ambush their unsuspecting prey.
Now, they are undergoing a transformation: changing from aquatic to air-breathing animals. For the observant, this can be witnessed by carefully looking at the plants on the edges of ponds and rivers, usually in early mornings. The aquatic larvae crawl up plant stems, searching for somewhere secure to cling to. Once in a suitable position, the larval skin breaks open and the head, body, legs and wings are pushed out. The newly emerged adults are pale green in colour and the wings crumpled.
Body fluids are pumped into the wings to expand them and once the body and wings have hardened, the first flight can be made. This process can take an hour; during this time the insects are vulnerable to predation.
It’s a dramatic transformation and amazing to see, as is simply watching the adult dragonflies and damselflies. By taking time out of our busy schedules to notice and observe wildlife perhaps our lives can be transformed too. Ok, probably not as dramatically as a dragonfly! But spending time outdoors and in nature can definitely have a positive impact on our health and wellbeing.
This is the basic premise underlying The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild campaign. Throughout June, The Wildlife Trusts are challenging people to spend some time in nature every day. Over 12,000 people have already signed up to take part. Many are sharing their experiences on social media using #30DaysWild