What we, as humans, do not know about dragonflies, which have been around for more than 300 million years, is substantial. According to an NPR report on the studies of Martin Wikelski, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University in New Jersey, “Dragonflies are long-distance fliers that travel similarly to migrating birds,…build up fat reserves, wait for favorable winds, take rest breaks, and reorient themselves when they lose their way….(and) radio-tagged dragonflies (have been recorded) traveling 100 miles (160 kilometers) in a day.”
Science Magazine reports that”…the winged wanderer,…a mere 4 centimeters in length…may make migrations of 14,000 to 18,000 kilometers as it searches for pools to lay its eggs.”
As a boy growing up in Manatee County, I observed many different dragonflies and damselflies, but did not know there were over a 100 different species in Florida and 331 species in North America. I enjoyed the lilting flight of the Ebony Jewelwing as much as the power dives and slashes of the green Eastern Pondhawk. Catching a few to take a closer look at them became an obsessive challenge for a couple years.
From “Dragonflies,” the 16th chapter of Growing Up Floridian:
Sneaking up on a dragonfly is much harder than one might imagine. I spent quite a few hours of my youth on the ranch perfecting stalking techniques with limited success. Dragonflies perched on the top strand of the barbed wire fence that set the boundary between our yard and the surrounding pasture. I wanted to catch the crafty fliers to examine the different species and simply take on the challenge of catching them by hand. Trying to use my pillowcase butterfly net was not realistic. The dragonflies were far too fast and agile in the air. I already knew how to catch butterflies by hand, so I taught myself how to sneak up on a dragonfly that was perched on the fence and grab one wing in each hand simultaneously. Many attempts failed, but once I caught the first one, I knew hunting success was possible, and the challenge of snatching an elusive dragonfly never failed to motivate patient efforts.