During the warmer months our creeks, the lagoon in Biambi Yumba Park, the lakes in Anzac Park, Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens and in the grounds of the University of Queensland are ideal places to observe our local dragonflies and damselflies.
They are easily distinguished. Damsels are more slender and hold their wings upright and aligned with the abdomen. Dragons spread them out horizontally. Both pairs of damselfly wings are similar in size, whereas the hind wings of dragonflies are just a little broader than the forewings.
Dragons and damsels live in two worlds. Their eggs are laid into water or onto aquatic plants. After hatching, the nymphs remain and develop under water where they feed on the nymphs of other invertebrates, on tadpoles and worms, and where they form part of the aquatic food chain themselves. The metamorphosis into the adult stage happens on dry land. From that point on, their purpose in life is reproduction and extension of habitat.
Whether adult or nymph, dragons and damsels are voracious eaters. The adults feed on flies, mosquitoes, butterflies, and sometimes on their own family members, all on the wing. Mating and egg deposition happens where the water bodies are. Food sources, however, are also found in other vegetated areas (sometimes a substantial distance away from the water). Even dragonflies need their wildlife corridors, and we have to make sure that not only creek and lagoon banks are vegetated but links between water and additional habitat are secured.
While some dragons and damsels are found on still or slow running water bodies, others seem to prefer faster moving streams, and some can be found in several habitats. Because of their preferences, they also are excellent indicators of ecological qualities important to them and other animals.
Long term local monitoring should be an important aim. We can expand on data collected by CWCN over several years, monitor habitat creation (or loss) and measure the success of our rehabilitation work. Presence and numbers of particular species in particular habitats also give an indication of water quality. Additionally, changes in dragonfly anddamselfly communities may provide clues to the effects of climate change as species from warmer climates have started moving.
Dragons and damsels are fascinating creatures. Take the time to observe, consider their needs, and protect them. Loss of biodiversity affects all of us.
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