DAMSELS IN DISTRESS
This time of year is perfect for seeing dragons (it’s National Dragonfly Week)… but don’t forget the damsels.
In July, the damselflies are looking for love but their dating techniques are a bit ‘old school’ for my tastes.
They may look dainty, as they flit around pond margins. But watch more closely and it looks like a scene of mass domestic abuse. On a sunny days in high summer, single males bash into happy couples, mid flight, attacking the rival males to get to a mate. They'll stop at nothing, pulling and biting to split pairs up. Others pounce on unsuspecting damsels sunning themselves on marginal grasses. They’ll even rape them as they lay their eggs, such are the lusts of the guys.
The females dart around to try to avoid becoming sport between two suitors, they can be half drowned by forceful males determined to mate. So, they fight back, sometimes killing their attackers, even eating them. So, a male had better be sure she’s in the mood. The thrill of the chase ensures only the strongest males get the girls. To improve their chances of mating and living to tell the tale; they ‘grab’ a girl by the throat, with special spiky plates on their tail while they mate. The pair stay stuck together in tandem for a while and can often be seen flying across ponds still joined. The male wants to hold onto her long enough to get the eggs he’s fertilised laid, before he's usurped.
“Dragonfly-like insects have been around for millions of years, they’re dinosaurs in our midst, so it works for them. After a brutal courtship, when they finally get it together, they form a heart shape. Who said romance is dead?”
National Dragonfly Week June 11th-19th | british-dragonflies.org.uk