Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dragonfly Symposium - September 15!

A stunning female Autumn Meadowhawk, Sympetrum vicinum, regards your blogger with her inscrutable, beautiful bicolored eyes.

Dragonflies and damselflies - the Order Odonata - are among the world's most successful insects. They're on every continent but Antarctica, and have outlasted the dinosaurs. "Odes" are also aesthetically stunning, masters of flight, and rabid predatory carnivores. What's not to like?

On Saturday, September 15, the Midwest Native Plant Society and Grange Insurance Audubon Center (GIAC) will be hosting a workshop entitled: "Dragonflies and Damselflies: the fascinating world of Odonata". It'll take place at the gorgeous new GIAC, from 9 am until 3 pm. The cost is only 30 smackers, and that includes lunch. To register, just pop off an email to GIAC's own Ann Balogh at or ring her up at 614-545-5481.

We'll learn lots about these interesting six-legged beasts, because two experts will be in the house and delivering their characteristically interesting and informative PowerPoints. There'll also be a third speaker - me - and I'll do my best to offer up a potpourri of informative dragon info. There's some nice wetlands and a huge river right outside the center's doors, and we'll hit those habitats to find some of these critters in the flesh.

That's a male eastern pondhawk, Erythemis simplicicollis, above. Don't EVER come back as a bug and get yourself in the crosshairs of one of these. It'll snap you up and eat you. Pondhawks, gram for gram, are among the most brutish predators on earth.

This animal, which at least in the coloration department looks nothing like the other pondhawk, is indeed a pondhawk of the same species. Many species of dragonflies are dimorphic - the males and females look quite different, just as with some birds. Fortunately a true Odonata Master, Bob Glotzhober of the Ohio Historical Society, will be at the workshop. Bob's got a great talk on the basics of dragonfly identification, which also covers lots of other basics about damsels and dragons. Bob literally wrote THE BOOK.

This plant, and others of its ilk, are VERY important for dragonfly reproduction. I'm going to talk mostly about finding dragonflies and the various habitats that various species frequent, and touch on the ecological roles that they play, including plants that are ode-friendly. I'll also throw in tips about how to photograph these often flighty insects once you've got them in your sights. Getting up close and personal with an insect that can see in nearly every direction simultaneously, and far better than you do, can be a challenge.

This calico pennant, Celithemis elisa, is a true showstopper and epitomizes the artistic beauty of these animals. Small wonder the Odonata have inspired many an artist. Janet Creamer of the Indianapolis Parks and Recreation Department, is also on the slate and I know that the beauty of these insects has inspired her to delve into the mysteries of the Odonata. Janet is a naturalist's naturalist, and a wonderful presenter. She knows tons about the subject at hand and will deliver a fun fact-filled presentation about the intriguing and lesser known aspects of dragonflies.

My, what eyes you have! If you come, I will guarantee that you'll see many an image like this. Between the three of us who will be taking the lectern, we've got scads of cool shots. We'll romp through about all of the common damselfly and dragonfly species that occur in Ohio, and hopefully offer up a good overview. This show is geared towards beginning and intermediate enthusiasts, and none of us will get overly technical.

Photography has hugely enhanced my appreciation of the Odonata, and pursuing these bugs with a lens has helped me to learn far more about their habits and habitats. I'm not suggesting that you wade in to the wetlands shoulder deep - I'll do it for you, and share the results!

If you have an interest in dragonflies, I think you'll enjoy this workshop, and I hope that you can make it. Again, to register just email or call Ann Balogh at or 614-545-5481.

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