And what a life! Most odonate species live for only a few weeks, but their lives are full of experiences that might make many humans envious: long-distance travel, aerial hunting and territorial battles, high-tech body designs (including nearly 360 vision and the ability to fly both forward and backward at high speeds), and lots of very acrobatic sex. During mating, the male uses claspers at the end of his abdomen to grasp the female behind her head. If she accepts him, she bends her own abdomen around so that her vulvar plates meet his secondary genitalia, which are located near the underside of his thorax — and a heart-shaped “flying wheel” is created. With her sharp ovipositor, the female deposits her eggs into moist soil, aquatic vegetation, or directly into the water… and the life cycle begins again.
Although all odonates lead similar lives, the diversity of families, genera, and species within the order is remarkable in terms of appearance and behaviour. Many of our common damselflies and dragonflies can be easy to identify, even through binoculars or with the naked eye. But most can only be learned through capture and close examination of the various colour patterns and the genitalia. It is not necessary to harm them, but it sure can be a lot of fun trying to capture them, and it’s always awesome to get up-close and personal with these winged wonders!