Saturday Dragonfly Walks July 6
August 3 and September at 8:30 a.m.
Mesa photographer and Odonate enthusiast Roger Racut, along with Steve, Jenn & Nate Jansen, guide our July 6 dragonfly walk in search of Flame Skimmers and Blue Dashers at Ayer Lake and at water features around the gardens. This guided and interpretive tour is a chance to learn about -- and photograph -- the intricately-colorful insect predators close-up. Bring your camera; Roger usually nets a few dragonflies safely for visitors to view and photograph closeup, before releasing the insect unharmed. In August our special guest tour guide is ASU Professor Pierre Deviche -- check out his excellent website below to see photos and read about dragonfly biology
There is no pre-registration required to attend this guided walking tour, which lasts about 90-minutes. Just be in the visitor center breezeway lobby at start time by 8:30 a.m. The tour is included with daily admission of $9 for adults or $4.50 for ages 5-12 -- and please be aware that our daily admission increases by $1 starting July 1. Dragonflies such as as the Blue-eyed Darner in this photo at right can often be seen hunting over Ayer Lake; Queen Creek and the various artificial water features around the gardens are other great places to see and photograph them.
Dragonflies are fascinating creatures with a rich heritage of folklore and fables that vary greatly from culture to culture. European cultures tend to see dragonflies as dangerous or even deadly; Asian and Native American cultures see them as signs of good luck and longevity. Research indicates dragonflies have existed for over 300 million years, and yet these colorful insect predators are still misunderstood. Some cultures fear dragonflies, accusing them of sewing up people's mouths. Other cultures revere the dragonfly, considering it good luck to have one land on you.
The truth about dragonflies is far more interesting than fables: they have six legs, but can't walk; they have incredible vision, but are deaf; they outlasted the dinosaurs and are still going strong today. In addition, recent discoveries by Mesa resident Prof. James Walker reveal dragonflies bathe in flight by plunging into the water, sometimes as many as six times in a row. How do they dry off after such a bath? Easy, they spin head over heels at 1,000 rpm while still in flight!
Prof. Walker (also known as 'The Dragonfly Whisperer') presents a lively website with photographs and slow-motion videos of dragonflies bathing and 'spin-drying.' Check out
Intricate patterns on dragonflies can be breathtaking -- check out the blue-on-black mosaic pattern on this Blue-eyed Darner in the photograph at right. Blue-eyed Darners hover over Ayer Lake and hunt smaller bugs during Summer months at the Arboretum, if one of these large dragonflies stops to perch on a cattail focus your binoculars for a great look at the mosaic design of blue and black along the abdomen -- and watch for the vivid purple of a Roseate Skimmer.
What species are you likely to see during summer months here at BTA? A few of the more common ones are Flame Skimmer (Libellula saturata) , Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis), Mexican Amberwing (Perithemis intensa), Common Green Darner (Anax junius) and Blue-ringed Dancer (Argia sedula). Seen less frequently are Roseate Skimmer, Neon Skimmer, Rambur's Forktail, Filigree Skimmer, Spot-winged Glider, Red-tailed Pennant, Red Saddlebags, Giant Darner, Springwater Dancer, Desert Firetail, and Desert Whitetail.
The Arboretum's most impressive tally may have been during the Bio-Blitz event, a special biological survey on September 15, 2007. Rich Bailowitz and Doug Danforth were 'team captains' for the butterfly and dragonfly survey. Odonate results were 25 species, and an impressive 224 individuals. Here's what they reported finding: 3 Black Saddlebags, 1 Red Saddlebags, 1 *Black Setwing (new for our hecklist!); 2 Blue Dasher, 20 Flame Skimmer, 27 Mexican Amberwing, 4 Neon Skimmer, 14 Roseate Skimmer, 8 Variegated Meadowhawk, 1 Straw-colored Sylph, 2 Spot-winged Glider, 4 Pale-faced Clubskimmer, 2 Blue-eyed Darner, 3 Common Green Darner, 1 Giant Darner, 1 Arroyo Bluet, 39 Familiar Bluet, 3 Amethyst Dancer, 7 **California Dancer (also exciting, this gives confirmation of a previous observation); 30 Dusky Dancer, 10 Lavender Dancer, 5 Sooty Dancer, 20 Springwater Dancer, 8 Desert Firetail and 8 Rambur's Forktail.
summer walks produced some of these same varieties, and also Filigree Skimmer,
Variable Dancer, Springwater Dancer, Mexican Forktail, and Arroyo Bluet....
and older reports have included Black Saddlebags, Pond Damsel, Amethyst Dancer,
Sooty Dancer, Familiar Bluet, Arroyo Bluet and more.
The Arboretum offers our thanks to photographer and Arboretum tour guide Pete Moulton for sharing several of the images on this page - and also Rich Bailowitz and Doug Danforth for helping lead the walks and educating visitors about native insects of the Odonate order. Dragonfly enthusiast and photographer Peter Moulton was our guest tourguide for June, and pointed out colorful species around Ayer Lake including the Rambur's Forktail, Blue-ringed Dancer, Mexican Amberwing, Desert Forktail and the large blue-and-black Widow Skimmer (the latter two species were first-ever records for the Arboretum). Large red Flame Skimmers and also Blue Dasher were seen flying over both Ayer Lake and Queen Creek, and the Dasher was also observed hunting smaller insects around the Demonstration Garden water features. Species seen only along Queen Creek included Red Rock-skimmer and Giant Darner, a magnificent insect and the largest dragonfly in all of Arizona. Another exciting specie found around the Demonstration Garden water feature was Desert Firetail.
The Arboretum is a great place to observe "watchable wildlife" including birds, butterflies, lizards... and also the colorful, charismatic and predatory dragonflies that strafe Ayer Lake and Queen Creek in search of prey. Pete Moulon travels from his Phoenix home to photograph dragonflies and butterfly species at the Arboretum -- and he shared two of the colorful images on this page. The Arboretum is among Pete's favorite spots for macro photography, and these images were captured during his rambles around the trails here at BTA.
"When the temperature is a little warmer Ayer Lake is a good place to start looking for both dragonflies and damselflies. Some species breed in still water, and at the lake these include: Blue-eyed and Common Green Darners, Flame and Roseate Skimmers, Mexican Amberwings, and Blue Dashers.
"The little wet area just above the lake produced what, at the time, was the first known record of Neon Skimmer for both the Arboretum and Pinal County. Cynthia Donald found this spectacular bug, which stayed just long enough for one not very good--but recognizable--photograph before it disappeared.
"While some species prefer still waters for breeding purposes, and are therefore found around lakes, ponds, and the like, others favor flowing water. Queen Creek provides habitat for some of these species, and the shady spot where the trail drops into the canyon and then switches back to follow the creek downstream is excellent for both the Red Rock Skimmer and the Springwater Dancer. I've also seen and photographed the American Rubyspot here.
"A few species require open water only for breeding, and may be found anywhere in the park, often far from water. The Wandering Glider and Variegated Meadowhawk are two of these wide-rangers."
Pete photographed the beautiful blue Springwater Dancer (the damselfly above) along Queen Creek, and the brilliant red skimmer at right was also photographed here. To read other dragonfly reports posted on the web and learn about other places to see them, visit the website
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