A Salty Old Girl

  Female Seaside Dragonlet on  Marsh Bristlegrass ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

The Seaside Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax berenice) spends most of its time perched atop salt marsh plants; here, one rests on a stem of marsh bristlegrass (Setaria parviflora).

Perhaps ‘saltmarsh dragonlet’ would be a better name, since they’re often the only dragonfly in the marshes. Other dragonflies appear in coastal habitats, hunting insects over dunes and wetlands, but no other species is as tied to the coast as the dragonlet; they rarely appear inland, and are considered to be our only marine dragonfly.

The primary reason is their adaptation to salt. Like all dragonfly larvae, seaside dragonlet nymphs are aquatic, but their ability to regulate the concentration of salt within their bodies allows them to thrive in saltwater; researchers have found them tolerating water as much as three times the salinity of the ocean. In salt marshes, the seaside dragonlet often is the only medium-sized dragonfly — about an inch and a half long — that’s encountered.

Salt marshes are insect-rich, so dragonlets can afford to be a little lazy. They do less flying and more waiting than many species: launching themselves out to capture passing prey before returning to their perch.

Adult males are deep blue or black, with clear or nearly-clear wings; females show varying amounts of yellow atop the abdomen, and elaborate patterns of black-and-yellow striping on the sides of the thorax. As accomodating as they are attractive, they make fine subjects for a photographer.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Sympathy for a Grasshopper

 

Even when my car’s covered in mud or dust — which happens frequently — I keep the windows clean: the better to see other drivers, as well as whatever might be blooming alongside the road.

Recently, another advantage of clean windows presented itself. While stopped at a traffic light in Fredericksburg, this little gem — a differential grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis) — emerged from the security of its hidey-hole beneath the wipers and stared at me through the windshield.

When the light changed, I felt certain the grasshopper would fly off as I accelerated. Instead, it gripped the glass ever more tightly and stayed put: staring at me through ten, fifteen, and twenty-five miles per hour. By thirty-five, things were getting iffy, and finally, at forty-five, a look of what I imagined to be a combination of supplication and terror crossed the insect’s face.

I pulled over, captured this somewhat unusual view of the creature, and then stepped out of the car. Sensing its opportunity, the grasshopper flew off while I, in turn, returned to the car and drove off: happy for my own unusual opportunity.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Incoming!

Pseudodoros clavatus visiting a spring ladies tresses orchid

 

Not only humans enjoy ladies tresses orchids. Their small flowers present no obstacle to the variety of bees, flies, and beetles that visit them, nor to the tiny spiders that lurk among their folds.

Here, a syrphid fly with the impressive name Pseudodoros clavatus comes in for a landing. As an interesting side note, this little fly has no common name, unless you’re willing to count “that thing that looks like a wasp.”  Johan Christian Fabricius, a Danish zoologist, named the species Dioprosopa clavata  in 1794, but a 1903 revision resulted in Pseudodoros clavatus.

It’s been suggested that the wasp-like shape may help to protect the insect from predators. Taking on a syrphid fly is one thing: attacking a wasp quite another.

Can you see the infinitesimal headphones the little fly’s wearing? No? Well, if you could, and if it shared them with you for a moment, you might find it’s listening to perfect music for visiting a Spiranthes — Spyro Gyra’s Morning Dance.”

 

Comments always are welcome.