Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Skeeter Hawks

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:


  1. Anonymous9:34 AM

    We once had hundreds of dragonflies suddenly converge on our yard. They stayed for 15 or 20minutes swerving wildly to avoid each other. Just as quickly, they were all gone. A truly memorable experience!

  2. I own Pat's Ocracoke Wild" and Ocracoke Odyssey" one of the chapters in O Odyssey is about another little darter the hummingbird moth. It wasn't long after I read it that I saw one at my butterfly bush.
    I don't know if these books are still in print but I enjoy reading and rereading mine.

  3. I had thought that Pat's books were out of print, but that is not correct. I know we have several copies of Ocracoke Wild at Village Craftsmen.

  4. Anonymous4:53 PM

    Do you carry any books other than those listed in your online catalog?

  5. We do have a few other local interest books, but because we concentrate on American handcrafts our book selection is not extensive. I am not at Village Craftsmen as I write, but you can call Jude (Mon - Fri) between 10 am and 5 pm at 252-928-5541 for more information. Leslie at Books to be Red (252-928-3936) has a bigger selection, and can order almost any title.