Dragonflies Belong at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

We see a lot of dragonflies around Lathrop this time of year, and they uniquely belong here.

First of all, they are old–250 million years old.

Second, dragonflies live near ponds and wetlands. That’s because they start their lives in the water. Females lay their eggs on the water’s surface or on aquatic plants. Hatchlings hunt other aquatic invertebrates. They molt 9-17 times as they grow, and finally crawl out of the water.

The first few days out of the water are very dangerous. After the final molt, a dragonfly’s body is soft and pale. After swimming for all of its life, its flying skills need practice. So up to 40% of dragonflies are eaten by birds and other predators at this stage.

Some dragonflies, like other Lathrop residents, migrate south in the winter. One species has been recorded in an 11,000-mile trip.

Dragonflies use solar power. Those that flit around will whir their wings very fast to generate heat. Those that perch will position themselves strategically to catch, or avoid, the sun on their bodies.

Male dragonflies need extra effort to copulate. The sperm is located at a different point in its body than its penis, so it has to fold up its body to transfer the sperm to its penis, before it can mate with its lady love.

Dragonflies, like some residents and staff we will not name, exceed the posted Lathrop speed limit. A dragonfly can fly at 100 body lengths per second, or up to 30 miles an hour.

Unlike some of us, dragonflies are very nimble. They can move each of their four wings independently, up and down or forward and back on an axis. They can fly up or down, forward or backward, hover, and make hairpin turns at full speed or in slow motion.

And they have better eyesight than most insects. Their head consists almost entirely of two huge compound eyes, which impart nearly 360-degree vision. A dragonfly uses about 80% of its brain to process all this visual information. We, on the other hand, have lots of brain power left for reading the Lamp Post and for appreciating and protecting the creatures that, like us, call Lathrop land their home. http://insects.about.com/od/dragonfliesanddamselflies/a/10-Cool-Facts-About-Dragonflies.htm

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