Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pins and Needles 11: Those tiny things they call Dragons.

Hey ya'll

So it would seem, that after that particularly unforgettable event of catching dragonflies in the Monash University field, I have developed quite a strong fascination for these creatures! I mean yes, I do love butterflies and moths still... such amazing wings they have... but then again, have you actually taken a close look at some of these dragonfly wings? I mean those lovely venation patterns aside, many dragonflies' wings have this amazing sheen to it that refracts various colours when they catch the light... and that's not even counting those dragonflies which already possess brilliantly coloured pigmentation on their wings as it is. Anyway, to fuel my newfound fascination with these insects from the order Odonata, (and also as a sort of self-reward for finishing the rewrite for my thesis chapter for what must be the umpteenth time...) I managed to take a day off today and schedule a day trip with Ray to the Lake Gardens in Kuala Lumpur.. now, if you do not already know which one I am talking about (and there really ARE a lot of parks with huge lakes in them in Kuala Lumpur) this is the one located near the deer farms and the butterfly gardens... to capture me some miniature dragons!

Cyren Asteraceya Wong: Dragon Hunter
Raymond Tang: Trusty Assistant. 
Unsurprisingly - and this is only to be expected from a place surrounded by beautiful lakes although, when we actually got there it sort of surprised me - there were dozens of dragonflies there! Flying, buzzing, skimming the surfaces of the ponds, flirting, dancing, cartwheeling amongst the lily flowers! Red dragonflies! Blue dragonflies! Large ferocious looking ones with black bodies and electric green stripes, delicate butterfly-like ones with handsome maroon wings. I had never seen so many of them, and in such variety too, all in one place at any given time. I think I must've stood there like an idiot for a couple of seconds, like a child perhaps in a very large toystore whose not quite sure which section to browse at first when eventually, the entomologist instinct began to kick in... and away I went, gallivanting amongst the grasses, oblivious almost to the clouds of annoying little mosquitoes that rose up with each step I took, raising my net high, and entering the fray!

Dragonflies in receptive mating positions dotted the pond.
Some interesting facts about dragonflies, they are a group of four winged insects that are classified under the order Odonata. Unlike butterflies and moths, which go through a complete metamorphosis, dragonflies actually grow through incomplete metamorphosis, from nymphs resembling something like a wingless dragonfly with a stouter body, that feed on small fish, tadpoles and other organisms underwater. When the nymphs have grown sufficiently, they crawl out of the water to cast off their final molt and spread their wings as adult dragonflies. Unlike what most people might think, dragonflies are actually predatorial in nature and - in this amateur entomologist's opinion - are only second in ferociousness to the praying mantis! Hunting their prey on the wing, dragonflies are unsurprisingly superb fliers being some of the few living things on earth that can actually fly backwards, and change their directions abruptly in mid-flight. They are also amongst the fastest of all flying insects recording highest speeds of up to 90 kilometers an hour with some species, and on an average of 40 to 50 kilometers per hour with most. Although, like all insects, dragonflies possess three pairs of legs which are excellent for perching and for snatching up their prey (smaller flying insects) in mid-flight, dragonflies legs are actually quite inept at walking and many do not do this at all. Dragonflies have compound eyes which are connected all round their heads giving them almost 360 degree vision. While this enables them to scan for predators... it also makes then very difficult to catch!

Though... perhaps not quite so difficult for an experienced bug catcher like myself...
Despite it all though, the searing afternoon heat and the swarms of mosquitoes, I really did have myself an amazing time and I'm sure Ray did too... despite it all (he really is extremely accommodating to my crazy expenditions)... but we did get to meet some other enthusiasts too, most friendly perhaps was this one Dutch man who came all the way to fair Malaysia with his macro DLSR camera to "capture dragonflies... and basically anything else that's small and with wings!" Sure was interesting that we were both after the same "prey" but through different methods. Had a nice chat with him before sending him on his way with directions to the butterfly park. I'll bet he's got some amazing pictures to upload on his blog, particularly the one he took of a pair of dragonflies "making more baby dragonflies". Oh well, I only had my iphone 4 with me so... no such pictures. I did leave however, with a mighty haul of specimens (one of which had to be separated from the rest when it started eating them all up!) Anyway here are the rest of the pics from our dragon hunt

And in this corner... the reds, purples and maroons! 
Trusty assistant taking a well-deserved break
And finally (please don't kill me, this is all part of my research on local biodiversity after all...)

Oh...those little things called dragons


Brittanie said...

Funny you should mention catching all these dragonflies. I walked into a feeding swarm in the middle of this field at the park by my place. It was absolutely breathtaking to see them all and rainbows glistening off their wings when the sun hit them. ♥ I have to go by another net ASAP since my old one broke so I was forced to run around the field like a mad chicken (loving this term of yours ^^) trying to catch one when I knew it was moot. XD I'm crazy like that fortunately or unfortunately Idk....X_X

I was able to ID 3 of them though! So that's an accomplishment no? And some of yours look like Tramea sp. Although I'm not completely sure. XD

I recommend you go and purchase "Dragonflies of The World" by Jill Silsby (sp?) it's an epic book and one of my faves in my collection on our little friends. It covers the families of Odonata from all over the world gives you history of their biology and their earliest beginnings. The photographs alone will make you fall in love with them. Ok I'm shutting up now before I write a "book review" on this thing. :P Go look into getting a copy *Wonders if Amazon ships to Malaysia*.

Cyren said...

Hey Brittanie!!! Love it when you leave comments, they're always so lucid hahaha! And yeah, when I saw them at my university it must have been some sort of feeding swarm as well! Did you know some even tried to eat each other!!! I'll be needing separate cages next... Anywyay thanks for the recommendation for the book, I'm sti quite new with dragonflies.