Flame Skimmer’s Banquet

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I post a few images of Flame Skimmer dragonflies every year. Why not?  These dragonflies are gorgeous and among the most colorful of all insects.  They’re also great fun to observe because they often allow me to stay close to them and to note carefully their behavior.

It seems as if there are species-specific  personalities amongst the various dragonfly species.  Some types of dragonflies are extremely skittish.  Members of these species won’t allow me to come within yards.  Not so with Flame Skimmers.  These big dragonflies often tolerate my presence.  The individual that I’m featuring today was not bothered at all by the fact that I stood five feet away from him and photographed him with the aid of a flash.

Like others of his species this male Flame Skimmer took possession of a favorite perch, the stem of a dead flower.  He remained there for more than an hour as I observed him.  Periodically — every minute or so — he launched himself in flight.  Invariably, he returned to the same perch, almost always within 15-30 seconds.

Hunting was his intent.  On several occasions he returned to his perch with captured flies or other small insects, which he immediately devoured before taking off again.

As pretty as these dragonflies may be they are also ferocious predators.  A dragonfly is evolved to chase down smaller insects and to capture them in flight.  It has absolutely remarkable flying skills.  It can maneuver each of its four wings independently.  It can hover, it can accelerate from a standstill to top speed in an eye blink, and its aerobatics are unparalleled in the insect world.  It is equipped with two gigantic compound eyes (also with three simple eyes as well) and each of these compound eyes has about 30,000 crystalline lenses. The compound eyes wrap around virtually all of the dragonfly’s head so that it can see above, ahead, to the side, and behind simultaneously.  It also has a limited ability to turn its head in order to spot prey.

A dragonfly’s brain is only a tiny fraction of the size of our brains but that minute brain enables the dragonfly to fly and to hunt in a manner that is simply unparalleled.

Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180mm f3.5L Macro lens+1.4x telextender, assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite at 1/4 power and stabilized by monopod, M setting, ISO 500, f16 @ 1/160, second and third images, f20 @ 1/160.

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