Friday, June 17, 2011

Slaty Skimmer

On a recent trip to southern Illinois, I ran across a number of slaty skimmers, Libellula incesta, foraging high on a ridge in a woodland gap. This female was especially cooperative, and it was fun to watch her engage in frequent flycatcherlike "yo-yo" flights; darting from a favored perch and returning to the same spot to consume her prey.

You do NOT want to be a lesser bug and find yourself on the radar of a dragonfly. They are quicker than winks, can easily outmaneuver the most agile of helicopters, are capable of acceleration that would shame a Ferrari, and have all of the goods to deal with a victim once it is seized. Check out the bristles on those legs. They are known as raptorial spines, and form an Iron Maiden death grip on anything unlucky enough to be caught. From there, the hapless bug's next stop is the powerful mandibles of the dragonfly, where it will be crunched like a can in a trash compactor, and swallowed.

Life is scary for the lesser bugs, with death-dealers such as this slaty skimmer hanging around.

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