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‘Banner year’ for dragonflies

There was one question in particular all over social media on Wednesday.

Many were asking, “What is up with all the dragonflies?”

It seems 2017 is a “banner year” for dragonflies – according to A.J. Hendershott, outreach and education supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation at the southeast regional office in Cape Girardeau.

“Dragonflies lay their eggs in the water and then live as a nymph in the water for a long time,” he said. “When the temperature is right in the water – and they have had enough to eat – they will metamorphous into an adult dragonfly. Over the last week, maybe two weeks, we have definitely had a hatch across the regions and there is an abundance of dragonflies.”

Hendershott said he’d not had an opportunity to see how many species of dragonflies are involved in this hatch – but he imagines it to be a small group.

While he did not have the exact amount, Hendershott estimated there are hundreds of species of dragonflies coming from the eight families of the insect – which has not changed in millions of years.

“They are very ancient and their body plan has not changed over time,” he said.

And, there is no specific time frame to see the flying insects.

“We have dragonflies in the region all throughout the summer,” he said. “This particular hatch they all seem to be about the same size – so, like I said, they’re probably in the same family group and same species.”

His estimation to that comes on the maturation rate – in other words, how long it takes the dragonflies to “grow up” to the phase.

“Do they have the conditions that are right as far as temperature and food so that they’re in good body condition to be able to metamorphose?” Hendershott said is a question asked after a hatching. “Each dragonfly species has different life spans. Some of them live for months, some of them live for maybe a year. It just depends on what their life cycle is as to how long they can last.”

Hendershott said when it comes to insects, there are some years perfect conditions occur for egg laying, eggs survival, nymphs survival and excel, as well as for metamorphous and a good hatch to occur

“Some years, we have what is needed,” he said. “I remember in the past having some of these hatches in June. This one is a little later, so it’s a little species or group of species doing this.

“Insects have to have all their requirements met in abundance in order to have this level of abundance of dragonflies – bottom line, you really do have to have all the requirements met to have a hatch like this.”

There is quite a silver lining for the number of dragonflies in the area – mostly the role they play in “natural” pest control.

“Having this kind of dragonfly hatch with the abundance – they eat a lot of mosquitos which a lot of people are going to be interested in,” he said. “They are also, in my opinion, beautiful animals and they are fun to watch because they are very, very agile and very fast.”

He said those who may like the idea of having dragonflies around – either to watch or for their pest control qualities – can take steps to help in that process.

“If they have property and they are able to dig a shallow pond – two to three feet deep – it doesn’t have to be very big,” he said. “Those types of ponds are very important for dragonflies because they don’t have fish. Even though dragonflies do lay eggs, grow up and live in waters that have fish, their numbers are better when they live in a pond that doesn’t have fish,” he said. “I’m a big fan. I think dragonflies are amazing. They’re beautiful and they do us a service by eating mosquitos along with a lot of other insects.

“This time next year I won’t expect to see the same number of this same species out and about. But, it’s certainly a good sign that you have a lot of dragonfly adults out that means there will be plenty of breeding – they’re going to lay eggs. It doesn’t mean that all those eggs are going to survive or be in conditions that are ideal for development and maturation – or, that they’re going to be in a spot where they will be allowed to make it into the next life cycle stage if they have fish in the water or in a temporary wet spot that’s not going to last very long.

“Apparently, this particular group of insects has had everything they need right up until this point – it’s just been a banner year just like when you plant your garden and some years you just have a bumper crop of tomatoes and the next year, a bumper crop of squash.

“That’s the kind of stuff we deal with. Everything is just right for that particular type of species and we happen to enjoy the fruits of that right now.”

Dragonflies were found all around the area beginning on Wednesday. An outreach and education supervisor with the Missouri Department of Conservation has an explanation for the sudden explosion.

Dragonflies were found all around the area beginning on Wednesday. An outreach and education supervisor with the Missouri Department of Conservation has an explanation for the sudden explosion.

Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3628 or srobinson@farmingtonpressonline.com

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