The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Category Archives: Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies)


Since I’m on a roll with the aquatics…

Doing Science at Hill Creek, west of Yellowknife, NWT

We did more sampling in a number of creeks and streams today.  The weather was glorious and the dragonflies were out in serious numbers!  I’ve learned that the locals do not appreciate their mosquito-killers being captured, even if it is done In The Name Of Science.  Hopefully no one from Yellowknife will see these pics…

Large Dragonfly

Large dragonfly

Small dragonfly

Small dragonfly
Put me down!!! Yellowknifers will not stand for this!!!

I am sunburned and pooped but it was positively awesome to spend the day poking around the water…

Black flies (holy @#$%!!!)

The far north is definitely renowned for many things: cold temperatures, vast open landscapes, charismatic wildlife, and…biting flies.  Entomologists have been collecting and studying black flies, horse/deer flies (apparently they are called “bulldogs” here – awesome!), and mosquitoes in the north for decades; they were one of the primary taxa of interest during the Northern Insect Survey of the mid-1900s.

My research group is no exception: we are busily trapping adult forms of these insects as well as their aquatic juvenile stages.  There are many rivers, streams and beautiful waterfalls in this area, the moving waters of which are prime black fly territory.

Cameron Falls (photo: P. Schaefer)

Behold, black fly larvae:

Black fly larvae (photo: C. Buddle)

The hand of yours truly on a submerged bit of birch log we pulled out of Cameron Falls (photo: C. Buddle)

A colleague, covered in larvae (and very happy about it - he's one of those Dip guys) (photo: C. Buddle)

Seriously, the quantity of larvae here is just mental.  I pity the locals 2 or 3 weeks from now – eep! Yesterday we were pulling rocks out of the water that were entirely encrusted with fly pupae – we were actually watching some new flies emerge as we scraped other pupae of the rocks.

Other aquatic goodies are abundant too…dragonflies, damselflies, mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies…the waters are incredibly productive.

Big ol' Odonate

Net-building caddisflies

Forgotten Photo Friday: Sympetrum vicinum (Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly)

Sympetrum vicinum (Autumn Meadowhawk)

So here’s a case that illustrates why field notes are important.  I managed to snap this lone hasty picture of a striking red dragonfly on a fallen leaf in my garden before it darted off.  Today, months later, I stumbled on the image in one of my photo folders and thought it would make a nice FPF entry, partly because it’s lovely, and partly because surely such a dashing and brightly-coloured insect would be easy to identify.  Right?

Wrong.  Knowing little-to-nothing about dragonflies (Odonata), I turned to my books.  I first decided that it was a skimmer of some kind (Libellulidae) using my own field guide; then, feeling pretty certain that it might be a meadowhawk, I turned to BugGuide for a higher-resolution ID. 

Here’s what I found: a page called “Mature red adult: internum, janaeae, obtrusum, rubicundulum species group“.  Nuts.  Plus, a whole bunch of other similar-looking species of red meadowhawks, with plenty of warnings from other BugGuide-ers that proper identification of many species was next to impossible without a good closeup photo of the male genitalia.  Unfortunately, my dragonfly and I did not have time to get that well aquainted. Dang. 

I was flipping through the guide pages a bit disconsolately, managing to eliminate a few species from the list, until I noted one entry for a species whose “Season” notes stated:  “Primarily late in the summer. Often the last species to be seen in a given area.”  A little lightbulb went off, and I checked the date the photograph was taken: October 17, 2010.  It was the last day of really nice weather that fall, and a goodish number of insects were out and about for what seemed to be their last hurrah.  Armed with this information, I feel more confident about making the match and declaring this to be an Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum).*

Sometimes, in absence of a specimen-in-hand, one’s observations about habitat, host plant or prey, behaviour, or even just a date, can make or break an identification!


* Feel free to now tear my logic and subsequent ID apart and provide me with the right name for this critter.  kthnxbye.

See ya, 2010…

All right, all right, I give.  2010 is tout fini and the holidays are over (wah!).  Tomorrow marks the start of the new term; I’m teaching and have coursework of my own. 

I consider 2010 to be my first “real” year of blogging; though I have dabbled since ’09 it wasn’t until last January that I felt the pieces pulling together and then sat back and watched this little speck of the blogosphere grow into something a little more cohesive (though perhaps still just as rambly).  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working on posts, taking pictures, and sharing my interests with you.  In fact, you, my readers, are the most surprising and wonderful thing to have developed out of this hobby of mine; I never imagined that I would find a home among a group of such interesting, intelligent and talented scientists, naturalists, and outdoorsy-types.  I value your readership, your comments, your insights: thank you.

Now I’m going to indulge in a bit of copy-cattery (a sign of flattery!): some of you have been doing different versions of  “2010 in Review” posts, and I’m diggin’ it.  So here is my version.  See ya, 2010!

Some blog stats

Visitors in 2010: 18,965 (!!!)

Most Visited Post:  Goldenrod gall fly 

My Favourite Post: Crocodile!

Best Search Engine Terms: this was a toss-up between “dork dweeb nerd” and “Spider in Canada that is black and white and has thorn looking things on legs”.  Sorta sums this whole blog right up, those.

Favourite Photographs

Best Adult Beetle Photo

Best Larva Photo

Best Other Insect Photo

Best Non-insect Arthropod Photo

Best Mammal Photo

Best Bird Photo

Best Plant Photo

As I’ve searched through my posts from the past year, I’ve realized that I’ve got a ton of other photos tucked away that never made it on the blog.  I think I’m going to start a weekly feature (Foto Friday? Wordless Wednesday? Something along those lines) where I just post some of my favourite pics without worrying so much about accompanying text; it’ll be a nice project for the winter months.

Anyways, here’s to 2011!  I wish you all an exciting and fulfilling year!

Panic in the streets!


I’m leaving in less than six weeks.  SIX WEEKS.  To a land with no trees, where ice will still be melting as spring begins, over 3400km from home, where the sun never sets and mosquitoes never sleep.  Oh my fracking gawd.  I am simultaneously terrified, excited out of my mind, and consumed with anxiety by the amount of work that I still need to do before I go.  Eek!

To distract  me from my AUGH, I shall present a lovely dragonfly, my first of the season.  I actually found several of these Darners last week, swooping and hovering as they fed in a small clearing on the edge of a stand of white pine trees next to an old field.  They were still there yesterday, three of them resting together on the sunny side of a young pine, seemingly unconcerned with my presence. 

Gomphaeschna furcillata

With clear wings and subdued green/yellow, grey and brown tones, this species camouflages quite well on the lightly lichen-covered trees

I remember how much large dragonflies like this frustrated me when I was an undergrad student trying desperately to snag one or two for my Intro Ento course collection…with wrap-around eyes, and incredible dexterity in flight,  it was next to impossible to net one.  I was actually pretty surprised that these were so calm with the camera an inch or two away, considering the warmth of the day.  Maybe they were relying on their colouration, rather than speed, for protection?

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