Monday, 31 August 2009

A Damselfly Ovipositing

In an earlier entry, I had a pair of damselflies of the species Prodasineura laidlawii in tandem, with the male hovering above and still clasping the female while she oviposits or lay her eggs in the fast flowing stream.

Well, not all damselflies do that.  It depends on the species and, sometimes, the circumstances. 

In one extreme, the male and female remain in tandem while the female oviposits and one such species is the Prodasineura laidlawii. On the other extreme, there are species where the male will not be around at all and the female would lay her eggs on her own.  The Ischnura senegalensis is like that.

Once copulation is completed, the male damselfly of the Ischnura senegalensis will let go of the female and fly away to perch elsewhere.  The female will then fly off on her own to find a suitable egg-laying spot and proceed to oviposit.

This picture here shows a female damselfly of the Ischnura senegalensis ovipositing in a grassy pond.



And here is another female of the same species ovipositing in a pond in the padi fields.



After ovipositing, the female will then find a perch to rest, bearing the muddy stains on her abdomen, which is often a tell-tale sign that she has been laying eggs...



Why is it referred to as ovipositing, you may ask? 

This brings us to the structure of the odonate body.  As mentioned in an earlier article, the males have accessory genitalia on the underside of the second segment (S2) of the abdomen.  The males also have superior and inferior anal appendages or claspers that emerge from the tip of the abdomen (S10), which is the last segment. 

Females odonates generally have shorter and stouter abdomens compared to their male counterparts and there is only a superior pair of appendages.  Females of some species have a sharp lance-like ovipositor on the underside towards the end of the abdomen, which is used to insert eggs into plant stems, rotting wood, wet soil or other plant materials.  While those of other species may have special flanges or non-functional ovipositors so there exists many different egg-laying strategies with different species of dragonflies and damselflies. 

Nevertheless, due to this structure in the female, when it dips its abdomen into the water or plants or roots to lay its eggs, it is referred to as oviposition.



Saturday, 29 August 2009

Water, Water, Water... Everywhere... Still


It has finally stopped raining.  Thus, I went out early in the morning for some fresh air.  After a night of rain, we would usually be awarded a nice, clear, crisp morning with clear blue skies.  But there were still some dark clouds hovering around.

The day looks promising, yet I was not exactly convinced.  However, after a while, the sun did finally break through the clouds and show its face! 

The good Sol!



There has been so much rain this past week and especially in the last two days that some low-lying areas and some roads are flooded.  Even the padi fields have become large areas of water.  That's right.  In both the above pictures, that big "lake" is actually padi fields that's been inundated with flood waters.

And this farmer's home that stands in the midst of the padi fields is now stranded in the middle of a 'lake'.



As I walked, one of the first dragonflies I saw this morning was the Diplacodes trivialis, who took advantage of the early morning sun to come out and bask, to dry its wings.



A Common Green Frog was also out of the water and enjoying the new day...



For now, the sun is certainly out with a vengeance.....


Monday, 24 August 2009

Bugs, Mantids & More Bugs!

Nature As Is

Water, Water, Water... Everywhere!

There has been so much rain in Langkawi the last few days. 

And then, there is the spring high tides with the new moon, so water level is not receding much as yet.  Many creatures have seek higher ground to escape the rising waters.  Although there was a short respite this morning, it is raining again now. 

Soon, this snail might have to think about a swim...


















But he is not alone.  Those ants are in the same dilemma...



And there are still more stranded snails...



These crickets are sharing a leaf with a spider while they wait...



And even the crab is staying out of the water...



It does look like it will be quite a long, long wait.

And, I do hope the sun will show its face tomorrow...



Saturday, 22 August 2009

Green Is In!


Isn't he glitzy?  Just look at the metallic green body of that damselfly!

I was walking on a forest trail with a friend when I spotted this guy while she spotted a spider.  This damselfly was rather well camouflaged among the bushes. 

Me:  "Ahh!  Look!  A damselfly!" 

Friend:  "Where?"

Me:  "There!  Do you see it?"

Friend:  "Where?"

You get the gist!  A green damselfly among green foliage with daylight growing dimmer is not the easiest thing to spot. 

And I had to go looking again another day for more photographs to properly identify it.  That first time, he was perched on a leaf and did not move away too much but the angle and lighting was not the best.  The next time I went there on my own, this guy was being totally elusive and would not let me get near at all.  He would show himself, then go hide in the bushes where I cannot find him and when I did, he went fluttering away to perch on another leaf further away and higher up.  It went on like that quite a few times...

Perhaps he was playing a game of hide-and-seek?  Or is he now camera shy?  Or perhaps he just liked my friend better than he does me!

One thing for sure, this green male damselfly is certainly a grand and good looking one!



Could this possibly be the Vestalis gracilis of the family Calopterygidae?  The superior appendages of this species are curved inward strongly and the thorax is marked with discrete light green patches.  Or it could even be the Vestalis amoena or Vestalis amethystina?  All three species in this family look very similar and it would be difficult to tell them apart just from looking at photos like these.

The Vestalis gracilis can be found mainly in the north of Peninsular Malaysia though it is widespread in continental Asia, while Vestalis amoena is widespread in Sundaland except Java and the Vestalis amethystina is widespread in Peninsular Malaysia.  Tough one here, isn't it?

Anyway, the Calopterygidae family of damselflies are commonly known as Broad-winged Damselflies due to their broad wingspans, with many species having metallic-coloured bodies and heavily-tinted wings.

I still do not have the best shots of this damselfly and will definitely go there again for more!  But I did get a good shot of this spider on my second visit to this area...



It seems to me to be the Nephila pilipes, one of the species of the Golden Silk Orb Weavers noted for the large, strong and impressive webs they build. 

And, my dear friend, this spider pic is for you!



Thursday, 20 August 2009

Ferocious Predators

A friend once said to me that he thought dragonflies are scary creatures.  Perhaps because they zap around at speed and there is the fear that these insects may accidentally fly into you and stab you, especially in the eye?

Anyway, I belief I have since convinced him that these odonates are beautiful creatures and they are of no harm to humans.

Having said that, I should add that dragonflies and damselflies are actually ferocious predators in their own right.  They are specialised hunters with voracious appetites, whether as a nymph in the water or as an odonate in the air.  The nymph would feed on almost any aquatic prey small enough for it to handle such as tadpoles and small fish while adult odonates mainly catch insects in flight, be it faster-flying insects such as flies, a larger prey such as wasps or weaker-flying insects such as small moths in the case of damselflies.

In general, dragonflies typically feed on mosquitoes and other small insects so they are valuable predators in helping to control insect populations.  And they do eat up a lot of insects in a day!  By the hundreds!

Anyway, I had the chance to spot this dragonfly catching its meal.  It was very quick.  I saw it zap from its perch to catch the insect and then zap back to its perch again.  By the time I got to it from a few metres away and took a picture, he had almost gobbled up his entire meal.



And within seconds, this is what is left...



The same goes for this damselfly...




Monday, 17 August 2009

The Spreadwings

I came across this damselfly some months ago, back in late March, actually.  And since then, I have not seen it again even though I have been going back to the same place regularly.



It is the Platylestes heterostylus of the family Lestidae.  This damselfly has a hindwing length of 21mm.  It is of a light green colour with dark spots on its body or synthorax.  Its abdomen is long and slender and ends in robust anal appendages.  These anal appendages or claspers in the males of this species are long and strongly curved.

Also of note is the head of this damselfly, which is quite different in that it does not have a 'plasticky'-looking face as in the Ischnura senegalensis.



According to A.G. Orr's Pocket Guide, this damselfly is rare and local in open and forested swamp.  So it must have been a lucky day for me to come across it then.

The family Lestidae has large-sized, slender damselflies and while damselflies generally hold their wings folded when at rest, most damselflies of the Lestidae family hold their wings at an angle away from the body while resting, which explains why they are commonly referred to as Spreadwings or Spread-winged Damselflies.

This damselfly may not have a bright colouring and may not be as eye-catching as the Prodasineura laidlawii but it has its own beauty and is pleasing to the eyes in its own way...

I do hope I will see them again one of these days and I also wonder where else in Langkawi will I find them?



Sunday, 16 August 2009

Asia Dragonfly

Captivated By Damselflies


Here is another species I encountered a few days ago.  It is a very beautiful damselfly with striking blue markings.  And it was simply such an attractive damselfly that all I did was stare at him for a while, just taking in the amazing beauty of it all.  I was captivated. 

The only thoughts running through my head was simply, "Wow!"  And then again, "Wow!"

This damselfly is the Prodasineura laidlawii of the family ProtoneuridaeProtoneuridae is a family of slender, delicate damselflies, with narrow, clean wings.  This family of damselfly is also commonly referred to as Threadtails or Threadtail Damselflies, as you can see why...



This male damselfly has a hindwing length of 19mm and a long, pin-thin abdomen with a length of 31mm.  The blue marking on its thorax is thin and it also has a blue band on its head.  Even the tip of his abdomen (S9-S10) is blue above.  The female has very similar markings to the male.

The Prodasineura laidlawii can be found on forest streams.

I also came across a tandem pair with the female ovipositing in the fast flowing stream. 

I stood there and hadn't dared move at all in case I would disturb them.  What registered in my mind at the time was the striking blue of the damselflies against the glittering gold reflections of the stream, which was quite a contrast! 



The male damselfly hovered above and maintained a hold on the female while she laid her eggs.  The purpose is to keep guard to ensure she can finish laying the eggs that have been fertilized with his sperms.  She was ovipositing into some submerged roots in the fast flowing stream.



The whole process took quite a few minutes, after which the male released his grip on her and went away to perch on the bank of the stream to rest.  Meantime, the female remained in the same position for a while before finally flying away to her own hiding place to rest.



Now you can understand why these dragonflies and damselflies intrigue me.  I am, perhaps, even a little obsessed with them.....

As I have said before, nature is just intoxicating.


Saturday, 15 August 2009

My Dragonfly Ruminations

The Odonata Checklist had been updated again just this morning.  A total of 20 species listed so far.  And there are more than 230 species recorded in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. 


I wonder how many would be found in Langkawi?  It would be quite interesting to find out.  And I certainly hope there will be lots...

Quite often, people take up time-consuming hobbies or projects after retirement.  I am nowhere near that, though it does look like I am all set for it.  As it is, I spend many hours, most days of the week, compiling and identifying dragonflies or out dragonfly 'hunting'.  This project will keep my hands full and keep my days filled for many years to come.  Perhaps?

Anyway, a good friend recently asked, "Why dragonflies?"  I could not answer that because I really do not know.  I have had a dragonfly totem for nine years now.  If you had asked me the same question back then, I would not have had the answer either. 

So, of late, I have been asking myself that same question. 

I guess it has to do with nature to start with.  And, what I also do know is that the dragonfly somehow calls to me and puts a smile to my face every time I see it.  Hence, it is more symbolic in nature and for me, the dragonfly bears profound meanings and energies.

Everything happens for a reason.  After all, this is also exactly what nature is about...


Friday, 14 August 2009

On The Trail Again...

While walking along a trail at midday, there was a shadow on the ground of a fluttering dragonfly and, looking up, I saw a large dark-coloured dragonfly buzzing around a metre above me and quite a few more dragonflies of other species flying around even higher up. 

It is definitely an indicator of a hot day when dragonflies are flying around up high in the sky! 

I stood there and waited but this dragonfly would not stop to perch.  However, luck was on my side.  Another dragonfly did decide to take a break from its flight and it perched on a twig about 3 metres above the ground.  This is the best shot I could get!


This is the Hydrobasileus croceus of the family Libellulidae and as you can see, it can be easily recognised by the brown markings on its hindwings.  Its hindwing length is 43mm and with such broad hindwings, this dragonfly sails rather conspicuously and seldom perch.  From time to time, it will rest its wings and glide rather than just buzz around.  No wonder it is so tireless!

This photo was taken on a forest trail that is next to a clear flowing stream.  According to the Pocket Guide, this species can be found in lowland lakes, swamp forest margins, larger, well vegetated ponds and drains in open country.  I wonder where else in Langkawi will I find this species? 

And what about all those other species flying around up there?

Anyway, talking about trails, the beauty of a nice nature trail has recently been destroyed for the sake of convenience and development.  Two pipes have been installed alongside the stepped trail going up the mountain.


One pipe is painted a garish blue for what is presumably housing for electric cables and who knows what the other is for?  But it is certainly not a pretty sight.  Couldn't the relevant authorities have done it differently?  What a bummer for nature in Langkawi.  Nature do seem to take a back seat when it comes to development and making improvements for more monetary gains.



When will these people wake up and realise their priorities are so skewed?  It saddens me that they are blinded, their sight is obscured and the beauty of nature can be destroyed overnight without a thought.

Picture the above scenes in your mind's eye without the pipes.  That was how it used to be.  I can only be thankful they did not cut down any more trees.



Wednesday, 12 August 2009

A Blue Dragonfly

In the world of Odonata, more often than not, the males are more colourful and brighter than the females.  And in a lot of cases, the females are of a paler, lighter colouring than the males...

I have mentioned a few red dragonflies before and even the pink dragonfly... they are all the males of their respective species.

So now, here's a young, almost mature male of the Diplacodes trivialis.  The mature male has blue colouring.  A pruinose blue...



As you can see here, this young half-mature male still has some of the yellow markings of an immature male and shiny wings that will eventually thicken with maturity.  The immature male is shown in an earlier entry titled A Tiny Visitor.

Another half-mature male found at a different location...



Once he has developed the full colours of a mature male, he can stake out his territory and lie in wait for the female, which is what this guy here is doing...



And here's another adult male dragonfly watching over his territory...



That's the life of the dragonfly...


Monday, 10 August 2009

Damselflies In Wheel

Dragonflies and damselflies have very unique and unusual mating behaviours.

Mating usually take place near ponds, lakes, streams and rivers as the majority of dragonflies and damselflies lay their eggs in water.  The male dragonfly will stake out an area that is a suitable egg-laying site and maintain patrol over this territory to defend it while looking out for a female mate.  Should another male of the same species enter this territory, a chase will ensue to get the intruder off.  Nevertheless, several different species can often be seen patrolling the same area. 

Courtship may be brief or nonexistent for many dragonflies and quite complex for most damselflies.  A mating pair is referred to as being "in wheel position" or in copula as their bodies form a rough circle, and almost a heart-shape sometimes, while mating.

Here's looking at a pair of Ischnura senegalensis in wheel position...


A mating pair may remain in the wheel position for a few seconds in some dragonflies and up to a few hours for many damselflies...



Thursday, 6 August 2009

What Is It About The Dragonfly?

I learned something new about the dragonfly today.

No, it is not another species of dragonfly that I found or the dragonfly life cycle or what they eat.  What I learned today is the symbolic meaning of the dragonfly.  Let us first take a look at some facts about the dragonfly...

Dragonflies are adaptive creatures.  They start their life cycles in the water as nymphs when the eggs hatch.  The nymph feeds on aquatic insects in the pond as it goes through several instars to develop.  Once it is fully grown, it will crawl out of the water when the weather is right, then shed its skin to complete its metamorphosis into a dragonfly.

The dragonfly will hunt for food and upon developing its full colours and maturity, will begin to look for a mate and the whole dragonfly life cycle starts again.  It has a short lifespan and knows what it must do.

Although the dragonfly may mean different things in different cultures, its symbolism is mainly centered on renewal, positive force and the power of life.

The growth stages of the dragonfly is symbolic of achieving a sense of self with maturity.  As a creature of the water and then moving to the air, it represents deeper thoughts coming to the surface, potentially life-altering thoughts, thus making the dragonfly a symbol of our thoughts.  As a creature of the wind, the dragonfly represents change and is a reminder to us to heed where the wind blows.

The dragonfly deals with the mind, dreams, balance, thoughts, awareness and living life to the fullest.  In addition, it is a symbol of strength, happiness and courage in many cultures.

When we look at nature, there are a lot of things we can learn there.  And it looks like the dragonfly too holds some of the greatest lessons on life for us!


Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Pretty In Pink!

Would you believe there are pink dragonflies? 

Yes, P I N K !  

And not just any pink, but a nice, pleasing, rather attractive pink! 

Here's looking at a pink dragonfly to believe it...



Actually, the Pocket Guide says the head and body is a brilliant glowing red!  And it has red wing veins.  But does this dragonfly look red to you?  The head, yes.  The wing veins, yes.  But certainly not the rest of him.



However, when I first saw it from a distance, I did think it was another red dragonfly.  It was only when I got closer that I realised it wasn't exactly red and it just looked different from the other red dragonflies I have seen so far.

Only upon studying the image later that day and with close scrutiny of the wing venation could I confirm that it is the Trithemis aurora of the Libellulidae family.  This dragonfly is common on ponds and lakes and is widespread in tropical Asia.

The males like to perch in the sunlight.  I guess it is the reflection from the sun that gave them a pink colouration.



I have seen three of these dragonflies on two occasions in two different places now.  The first occasion, it was in a garden with several ponds on one side of Langkawi island and when I saw this dragonfly again next, it was on a grassy pond on the other side of the island. 

The females are light brown with darker markings.  So I am now on a quest to find the females of this species.



In this picture, the dragonfly was perched near a wall that's been painted mustard yellow.  The contrast shows off the amazingly intricate beauty of the wing venation and the red wing veins of this dragonfly in a very striking manner.

Although pink has never been my favourite colour, how do I not fall in love with these pink dragonflies?


Saturday, 1 August 2009

On A Forest Trail...

I went for a walk along a forest trail next to a clear flowing stream and did not come back disappointed.

There weren't too many dragonflies around at all, but at least there was one that turned up to greet me and so I now have another species added to the checklist.


This Cratilla lineata of the family Libellulidae is the only species I saw along the trail that day. 

In terms of size, it is on the larger side of medium, if that makes any sense, with hindwing length of 36 - 38mm for the male and 38 - 40mm for the female.  This species can be found in closed forests and forested swamps and several species occur throughout eastern tropical Asia.

This picture shows a young mature dragonfly, and looks to me to be female.  Her wings are not completely clear and her markings are more similar to the C. metallica but lacking the dark wing-tips of that species.  Also, a study of the wing venation confirms it to be the Cratilla lineata.


I am sure that if I venture further along the trail and go there often enough at different times of the day, I would come across other species so that is something I have to find out.  Or, at the very least,  I should find the male of this species?

Sometimes I battle with myself when it comes to dragonfly identification.  A photograph can differ so much from a coloured drawing in a book or even other photographs in a database.  And that is not all.  Dragonflies can have various different morphs and colour forms like some species of birds do too.

I suppose catching specimens and studying them with a magnifying glass would easily aid in identification but my intentions at this time involve taking only digital photographs!  So am I out of my mind when I stare at various pictures of the same dragonfly for hours on end?

And then I spend even more hours in the outdoors taking in the beauty and serenity of places such as this in the forests.....