For several days now dragonflies have been darting through the air around Ocracoke in great numbers. Intrigued, I did a little research on these beautiful creatures. I learned that Alfred Lord Tennyson described the dragonfly as a "living flash of light." Definitely an appropriate appellation. Their iridescent wings make them look like creatures from a childhood fairy tale.
Pat Garber's book, Ocracoke Wild, relates folklore about dragonflies from Arizona, South America, and medieval Europe.
Dragonflies are insects belonging to the Order Odonata. I did not know that they are the oldest surviving order of flying insects. As Pat explains, "300 million years ago giant dragonflies with wingspans approaching three feet hovered over swamps and bogs, the largest flying insects of all time."
I also did not know that as larvae (called nymphs) they spend two to five years as aquatic beings, moving along the bottoms of marshes and creeks eating small creatures. They spend only a few weeks as flying insects, but as aviators they are amazing, sometimes reaching speeds of 30 miles per hour or more.
Ocracokers love dragonflies because they are voracious eaters of small "bugs," especially mosquitoes. Hence the local name "Skeeter Hawks." As larvae they also consume great quantities of mosquito "wrigglers."
You can read more in Pat's book.
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of slavery on Ocracoke. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092111.htm.