Dragon fly on a Saturday walk in the park

Lions Park in Duncanville, Texas, to be more precise.  The dragon fly appears to me to be Neurothemis tullia, a Pied Paddy Skimmer, though I believe that is considered an Asian species.  [But see note at the end of the post.]

Closely related?   An exotic introduced to Texas?  Here we had cotton fields, not rice paddies.  The wings look like those of a Pied Paddy Skimmer, but most of the photos I’ve found show a black body, and this one is definitely gray.  Hmmmm.

Dragon fly, Pied Paddy Skimmer, Neurothemis tullia - photo by Ed Darrell copyright 2011, use permitted with attribution

Dragon fly, Pied Paddy Skimmer, Neurothemis tullia - photo by Ed Darrell; copyright 2011, use permitted with attribution

Dragon flies look mean.  As a very young child I was terrified of them, growing up on the banks of the Snake River in Idaho.  My mother, a farm-raised girl, took me out for a walk among the diving, softly-humming aerobats, and explained they had no stingers, they ate other insects, and they seemed to like humans, if we’d watch them.  As we watched, she held out her hand and a dragon fly landed, as if to say, “Hello!  Listen to your mother.  She knows us.”

Dragon fly in Duncanville Lions Park, photo by Ed Darrell - use permitted with attribution

Dragon fly takes a higher vantage point. Is this species exotic in Texas?

Up Payson Canyon, in Utah, at Scout Lake I passed many early morning hours, and many noon siestas, in the reeds watching the dragon flies.  When we were in our canoes or rowboats they’d fly at us like rockets, appearing to think they were torpedo planes, then fly up, or right or left, at the last possible second, to avoid colliding with our craft.  Through July they’d fly tandem, mating.  This intrigued Scouts, and delighted them beyond measure when the nature merit badge counselor explained they were having sex.  Red ones, blue ones, yellow, brown and black ones.  Big ones, little ones.

Shortly after we moved to Texas, we discovered that a swarm of dragon flies probably meant a local colony of fire ants was casting off females, to mate and start a new mound of exotic, stinging terror.  The dragon flies would catch and eat the queens-to-be.  I had to use a broom to shoo off a neighbor with a can of insecticide, trying to kill the dragon flies in their work to keep us safe and happy.  “But they look so mean,” she explained.

Judge no book by its cover (except Jaws); judge no insect by its eye apparel, or human eye appeal.

Dragon fly, Neurothemis Tullia (perhaps), Duncanville Lions Park, 6-25-2011 - Photo by Ed Darrell, use permitted with attribution

Pied Paddy Skimmer rests from hunting


Update:  In comments below, Roused Bear wonders if this isn’t the Widow Skimmer, which is native to Texas.  That would make a lot more sense, wouldn’t it?  What do you think, Dear Reader:  Widow Skimmer, Libellula luctuosa?

6 Responses to Dragon fly on a Saturday walk in the park

  1. Tsu Dho Nimh says:

    Whatever it is, I took pictures of a very similar dragonfly in West Virginia last month.


  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Thanks, Roused Bear! From this photo, it looks reasonable:

    Other photos show a mostly black body with yellowish-brown stripes running the length. I wonder if we have a couple of species in here.


  3. I think that is a widow skimmer, Libellula luctuosa, and native to Texas. Still, great photograph and story.


  4. Great post Ed. I was scared of dragonflys as a youngster. I am pleased to report my kids do not share this fear. One day we pulled into our driveway and hopped out of van, as the kids piled out my most scientific and mysterious child found a slowly wiggling dragonfly adhered to the van’s grill. It was large and blue, truly beautiful. He spent the rest of the day with that dragonfly, his eyes often become deep and wet thinking about the death of the insect.


  5. Ed Darrell says:

    Ah, the power of learning! Thanks, George.


  6. George Wiman says:

    Beautiful! I didn’t know they ate fire-ant queens.

    Richard Feynman on dragonflies:

    I had an insect book when I was about thirteen. It said that dragonflies are not harmful; they don’t sting. In our neighborhood it was well known that “darning needles,” as we called them, were very dangerous when they’d sting. So if we were outside somewhere playing baseball, or something, and one of these things would fly around, everybody would run for cover, waving their arms, yelling, “A darning needle! A darning needle!”

    So one day I was on the beach, and I’d just read this book that said dragonflies don’t sting. A darning needle came along, and everybody was screaming and running around, and I just sat there. “Don’t worry!” I said. “Darning needles don’t sting!”

    The thing landed on my foot. Everybody was yelling and it was a big mess, because this darning needle was sitting on my foot, And there I was, this scientific wonder, saying it wasn’t going to sting me.

    You’re sure this is a story that’s going to come out that it stings me–but it didn’t. The book was right. But I did sweat a bit.


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