And by the way, these most familiar insects are neither flies nor bugs; they are actually classified as beetles.
Tiger beetles, as the name implies, are ferocious predators, and they're easy to recognize because their bodies are brightly and iridescently colored. I often find them when I flip rocks in the backyard. They are fast and track down insect prey on foot. Then they use their powerful mandibles to rip their prey into pieces.
Larval tiger beetles are even more brutal. They hide inside a vertical burrow and anchor themselves with abdominal hooks. When unsuspecting prey wanders too near the mouth of the burrow, the larva lunges out and grabs the victim. It uses its large scythe-like jaws to kill the prey, then retreats to the burrow for a peaceful meal.
Dragonflies and damselflies (members of the order Odonata) patrol the edges of ponds, lakes, marshes, swamps and streams. They are relatively large and territorial, so they're easy to observe, especially with binoculars. Many are brightly colored or conspicuously marked. Often they approach and land on boats that enter their territories.
One of the things I love about odonates is their common names. Violet dancer, fragile forktail, unicorn clubtail, dragonhunter, and ruby meadowhawk are just a few.
Though ferocious in appearance, odonates are harmless to people. They do not bite or sting. They are, however, voracious predators of flying insects of all sizes. The aforementioned dragonhunter measures almost 3.5 inches and eats other dragonflies and even large swallowtail butterflies. Most odonates eat smaller insects, including deerflies, horseflies and mosquitoes.
The basic odonate body plan includes a large head dominated by huge compound eyes, transparent wings, and an elongated abdomen. Dragonflies have larger, heavier bodies and, at rest, hold their wings flat and perpendicular to the body. Damselflies are slimmer and more delicate and, at rest, fold their wings together above the body.
Summer belongs to the insects. Enjoy them.
Send questions and comments to Dr. Scott Shalaway, 2222 Fish Ridge Road, WV 26033 or by email at sshalal...@aol.com.