The Bees, Flies and Dragonflies page contains 75 macro portraits and detailed species information.

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Bees, Flies and Dragonflies

Miscellaneous Insects:
Katydids, Cicadas, Ladybugs, Mantis, Spiders and more


The Banner below leads to the Insect Macros Collection where images can be selected.


There are 4 Galleries in the the Insect Macros Collection:

Bees & Wasps                    Butterflies
Insects C, D, F              Insects K to S


Bee and Skipper 4561

A Honey Bee joins a Fiery Skipper drinking nectar at an emerging flower.

Honey bees in California are for the most part European Honey Bees (Apis mellifera)
(aka the Western Honey Bee) which were originally brought to the Americas by colonists.
Worker bees are the only ones which forage for nectar and pollen, and are sterile females.
They have a modified ovipositor (the stinger) which they use to defend the hive. Unless
stepped on or roughly handled, worker bees rarely sting while away from the hive.

Detail shots and information on Skippers can be found on the Butterflies 1 page.


Bee Macro 7610

Close detail shots of a Honey Bee posing and peeking at the photographer from a lobe on an Aloe plant.


Bee Macro 7629 M


Bee on Borage 0424

A honey bee drinking nectar from Borage. The blue star-shaped flowers
attract bees all summer, and are nicknamed the Bee Plant or Bee Bread.

The Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) is native to Europe, Asia and Africa.
Apis is Latin for Bee, and mellifera derives from Latin ‘mellifer’ for honey-bearing.
Foraging worker bees are the older bees. The young worker bees clean the hive and
feed larvae for the first 10 days of their life, then build honeycomb cells for 5 or 6 days.
They then receive nectar and pollen for 4 to 5 days from older worker bees. After the
20th day they leave the hive, foraging for nectar and pollen for the rest of their lives.


Bee on Borage HS8963


Bee on Borage X4868

Young flowers of Borage are pink. They gradually turn blue as they age. Borage flowers
have a sweet taste like honey, and are one of the few blue edible substances. They are
sometimes used as an edible decoration for desserts, and Borage as a whole has been
used as a medicinal herb for gastrointestinal, respiratory and cardiovascular disorders.

Borage was cultivated for culinary and medicinal uses since ancient times in the Middle East
and Mediterranean regions. Ancient Roman soldiers drank borage-laced wine before combat,
as did ancient Celtic warriors, as the plant was associated with courage and lifting of the spirit.


Bee on Daisy 2038


Bee on Daisy 5460

Honey bees gathering nectar and pollen from daisies. Bees store pollen in the corbicula, or pollen basket,
which is a polished cavity on the hind legs, surrounded by a fringe of hairs. The image above right shows
a bee with pollen stored in the corbicula or pollen basket (the yellow section on the rear leg of the bee).
The pollen is used in the hive as a protein source during brood-rearing. Nectar along with other sweet
plant and tree deposits are processed by the bees and stored in the honeycomb to make honey.


Bee on Peach 7849 M

A Honey bee gathering pollen and nectar from a Peach flower. As bees travel from flower to flower,
they transfer pollen. They evolved from their predatory wasp ancestors into specialized pollinators,
with behavioral and physical modifications that specifically enhanced ability to gather and transfer
 pollen, making them more efficient pollination agents than other insects (beetles, butterflies, etc.)

All of the landscape (horizontal) large version images linked from the thumbnails are 1500 pixels wide.
Portrait (vertical) images are 1200 pixels tall (1290 pixels with title bar). Images designated with an “M”
in the shot number are 5:4 aspect ratio, 1500 x 1290 with a title bar, or 1500 x 1200 without a title bar.
Some of the portrait images are also designated as “M”, and are 1500 pixels tall (plus the title bar).
A “c” is used at the end of the shot number when an image is a detail crop from the master image.


Bee on Sage 5346c M


Bee on Status 0182c M

Honey bees gathering nectar from Mexican Sage (left) and Statice (Limonium, also spelled Status).


Forget-me-Not with Bee HS8761

A Honey Bee on a cluster of Forget-me-Nots.


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There are 4 Galleries in the the Insect Macros Collection:

Bees & Wasps                    Butterflies
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Killer Bees 0885


Blue Star Sea Holly with Bee HS8988

At left, a wild colony of Africanized Honey Bees (aka Killer Bees) attached to a rock wall in Temescal Canyon.

The Africanized Honey Bee was produced by cross-breeding the African Honey Bee with European Honey Bees.
They were first introduced into Brazil in the 1950s to increase honey production, but 26 swarms escaped quarantine
in 1957 due to the actions of a visiting beekeeper and spread through South and Central America to North America,
arriving in 1985. They tend to swarm more frequently and travel farther than other honey bees, and guard the hive far
more aggressively than other bees, maintaining a larger alarm zone around the hive than other species. They are
superior pollinators and honey producers than other honey bees, and out-compete other species. They are also
more likely to attack than other bees, and sting in large numbers, sometimes causing death to their victims.


Blue Star Sea Holly with Bee HS8975

Honey Bees gathering pollen and nectar from Blue Star Sea Holly (Eryngium alpinum) in Southern California.

In the last ten years or so, worker bees from European Honey Bee colonies in North America and
several countries in Europe have been disappearing at an alarming rate. Colony Collapse Disorder
is the current name for this phenomenon, which has been observed in limited occurrences for well over
a century. Specific causes are still undetermined, but the effect on crop pollination is becoming severe,
as they are responsible for the pollination of a third of the crops in the US, including almonds, peaches,
apples and numerous other fruits. While many of these plants can be pollinated by other insects, the
efficiency of honey bees makes them more suitable for plant pollination on a commercial scale.


Hybrid Rose July 4th with Bee 7691c M


Rose with Bee 3358 M

Honey Bees in flight over Roses in Southern California.


Purple Coneflower with Bee HS8916

A Honey Bee on a Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) in Southern California.


Purple Coneflower with Bee 6997


Lamb’s Ear with Bee X4833

Honey Bees on Purple Coneflower and Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina) in Southern California.


Lamb’s Ear with Bee X4833c M

A detail crop of a Honey Bee with its tongue extended to drink nectar from a Lamb’s Ear.


Black-Eyed Susan with Bee X4844

A Honey Bee on a Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) in Southern California.


Black-Eyed Susan with Bee X4844c M

A detail crop of the image of a Honey Bee on a Black-Eyed Susan (resized down from the master).


Sweat Bee on Poppy 0844

A Green Sweat Bee (Agapostemon mexicanus) on a California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica).

Agapostemon Sweat Bees are metallic green or blue bees in the family Halictidae that nest in deep burrows.
They are also important pollinators, but as they are short-tongued, they frequent flowers with open architecture
such as the California Poppy shown above, as well as sunflowers and buckwheats. Smaller and more slender
than honey bees, they are called sweat bees because they are attracted to moisture and salt in human sweat.
They generally do not sting, but squeezing or pressing on a female will cause her to respond with a mild sting.


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There are 4 Galleries in the the Insect Macros Collection:

Bees & Wasps                    Butterflies
Insects C, D, F              Insects K to S


Carpenter Bee 0066


Carpenter Bee 0068c

A male Western Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa californica), one of three Carpenter bees found in
Southern California. This species and the Valley Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa varipuncta) are the
two largest. Males of the Valley Carpenter Bee are large and furry golden bees with an attitude.
Several times I have had males chase me, once requiring me to slap the little guy about 30 feet.
Males do not sting, but they are annoying. Male californica are furry and blue-black, with yellow
hairs on the first segment of their thorax (just behind the head, as seen in the images above).


Carpenter Bee 4368c

A female Western Carpenter Bee on Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha).

Carpenter Bees build their nests by boring holes in wood, often taking advantage of
the convenience of structural timbers. They are important pollinators of open-faced flowers.
They can be distinguished from bumblebees by their nearly bare, shiny thorax, their longer bodies
(bumblebees are generally rounder), and while some bumblebees are all black, most have colored
stripes (often yellow) that form a warning coloration (aposematic signal) to keep predators away.
The Carpenter Bee is mostly black, but depending on the angle of the light they can radiate
metallic purple, bronze or green highlights. Females can sting, but they don’t sting often.


Brewer’s Lupines Bumblebee 3589c

A Yellow-Faced Bumblebee (Bombus vosnesenskii) on Brewer’s Lupine in Yosemite National Park.
Yellow-Faced Bumblebees are mostly black, with a yellow lower thoracic stripe, head and upper thorax.
They are 1/2” to 3/4” long, and males have an extra stripe on the abdomen (this individual is a female).


Carpenter Bee X4781c M

A detail crop from the master image of a Carpenter Bee visiting a flowering tree in Southern California.
Like Sweat Bees, Carpenter Bees have short tongues and often visit open flowers like those shown above,
but like Bumblebees they sometimes do what is called “nectar robbing”, where they bore a hole in the base
of the flower with their tongue or mandibles and go straight for the nectar, bypassing the reproductive parts.


Carpenter Bee Break Time 0088 M

A Carpenter Bee sitting on a Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), taking a break and enjoying the garden view.


Yellow Jacket 2348

A Yellow Jacket in Southern California, probably a Western Yellow Jacket queen (Vespula pensylvanica),
based upon its larger size (nearly an inch long) and the bleeding together of the yellow abdominal markings.
Compare to the images of a Western Yellow Jacket queen shown just below, where the abdominal markings
are bleeding together almost completely, having nearly no black in between the segments. Queens are 50%
larger than worker wasps, which have well-defined abdominal segments with black markings (further below).


Yellow Jacket 1674c M


Yellow Jacket 1683c M

While the yellow around the eyes does not seem to completely encircle the eyes as in the images further below
showing Western Yellow Jackets, the combination of the softer yellow color and the lack of abdominal definition
does not look like images I have seen of a German Yellow Jacket (Vespula germanica). The yellow area below
the antennae on the face of the German Yellow Jacket has three black spots (these don’t) and the bulkier thorax
and the lack of extension of the wasp waist down the upper abdomen makes it unlikely that this is a paper wasp.


Yellow Jacket 1677c

Yellow Jackets can sometimes be tricky to identify, and they can be very aggressive and have a nasty sting,
(and can sting numerous times, unlike bees whose barbed stingers break off) so getting close can be scary.
Western Yellow Jackets are ground-dwelling, commonly building their paper nests in rodent burrows or other
protected cavities, such as voids in walls or ceilings. The nests are made of chewed wood fibers mixed with
saliva, arranged in multiple tiers of vertical cells enclosed by a paper envelope with a single entrance hole.
Nests can contain from 500 to 15,000 cells and some can house several thousand wasps. Due to milder
winters, in Southern California multi-year nests have been found with hundreds of thousands of cells.


Yellow Jacket Feeding Frenzy 4626c M

A group of Western Yellow Jacket workers gather in a feeding frenzy, attacking insects in Temescal Canyon.
Note the yellow completely surrounding the eyes and the well defined segmented black abdominal markings.

Western Yellow Jackets are aggressive scavengers and hunters. They need to secure large quantities of protein
to feed the larvae in their nest, and often they take advantage of people eating outdoors and scavenge their food.
Most often, they scavenge dead animals and insects, or hunt for bugs, bees, spiders and flies. They also require
sugars so they go after fermenting fruit, honeydew from aphids and scale insects, and they love open soda cans.


Yellow Jacket on Daisy 2966 M

A frontal portrait of a Western Yellow Jacket perched on a daisy.


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Bees & Wasps                    Butterflies
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Black Fly on Tithonia 2364

A Black Syrphid Fly (Flower Fly, probably Copestylum mexicanum, the Mexican Cactus Fly) on a Tithonia
(a Mexican Sunflower, Tithonia diversifolia). The Mexican Cactus Fly is a large, black syrphid fly, a family of
flower-loving flies which includes the hoverflies. Adult syrphid flies feed mainly on nectar and pollen, and while
in many species, their larvae feed on decaying plant and animal matter, in some species the larvae feed on
Aphids and other plant-sucking insects. Adult syrphid flies are also important pollinators of flowering plants.


Black Fly on Tithonia 1032

A Black Syrphid Fly on a Mexican Sunflower in Descanso Gardens in Southern California. Most likely a
Mexican Cactus Fly, which is the largest of the hoverflies in Southern California. The larvae feed primarily
on decaying cactus, which is what gives this fly its common name. The adults are enormous (3/4” or more),
and really attract attention as they approach and land on a flower. Their wings are clear with some black.


Flesh Fly 5317 M


Fly on Daisy 2706 M

At left, a Flesh Fly, or Sarcophagid (flesh-eater), so called because the larvae of some species (maggots)
eat carrion, dung, decaying material, or open wounds on animals. The body of adults is usually dark gray with
three black stripes on the thorax, red eyes, and bristles on the abdomen. Unlike most other flies, the maggots
are hatched inside the body of the adult and deposited as larvae (eggs are only laid in certain circumstances).

Above right is a Green Bottle Fly, a Blow Fly in the family Calliphoridae. There are a number of species of
Green Bottle Fly in the genus Lucilia (such as the common Green Bottle Fly Lucilia sericata and L. caesar).
Green Bottle flies are slightly larger than house flies, with metallic blue-green or gold body and black markings.
The wings are clear with light brown veins, and like Flesh flies their larvae grow on carrion and decaying flesh,
but unlike the Flesh Flies, the Blow Flies lay eggs rather than depositing their maggots on their food sources.


Fly on Snapdragon 1086

A Green Bottle Fly (genus Lucilia) on a Snapdragon (genus Antirrhinum).

Common Green Bottle larvae and related maggots have been used since ancient times
in maggot therapy, as they only eat necrotic (dead) decomposing tissue, and tend to leave
the living tissue alone. Written records from ancient times exist which describe wounds left
untreated and maggot infested that healed faster and better than treated wounds. Maggot
therapy has recently returned into use with the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.


Fly on Snapdragon 1090

A closeup of a Green Bottle Fly (genus Lucilia) on a Snapdragon (genus Antirrhinum).

Adult Green Bottle flies generally have hairs growing out of their metallic green bodies, as in
the image above. In several of these extreme closeups, you can see the compound structure
of the eyes and detail of the short, broad antennae below the eyes and above the mouthparts.
The facial region is white and the metallic green thorax often reflects golden bronze highlights.


Fly on Snapdragon 1111c M


Fly on Status 1830 M

Close detail of Green Bottle flies on Snapdragon and Status (Statice). Note the bronze highlights,
red compound eyes and white facial color, antennae and hairy arista, and the bristles on the thorax.


Fly Macro 4530c

An extreme front facial view of a Green Bottle fly. The combination of telephoto compression and placement
of the focal plane defocuses the antennae and the hairy arista, but allows close examination of facial features
including mouthparts, white facial color and red compound eyes, the hairy, spurred legs and the bristly thorax.


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Colorful View 3009

A Syrphid Fly surveys the garden from a brilliant red Cockscomb (Celosia) in the late afternoon.
Note the unusual character of the head and upper thorax. It appears to be wearing a chromed helmet.

Syrphid Flies are the hoverflies or flower flies often seen hovering or drinking nectar from flowers.
Their larvae are extremely beneficial as they either eat decaying plant and animal matter, or they eat
aphids, thrips and other plant-sucking species (depending on the species of Syrphid larvae). Many of
the Syrphids mimic the colors of wasps or bees to fend off predators, but Syrphids are stingless flies.
There are about 6000 species in 200 genera, and identifying these flies can sometimes be difficult.


Hoverfly on Rose 5161 M

A Dasysyrphus Syrphid fly on a rose.


Hoverfly on Rose 9628 M

An Allograpta Syrphid fly on a rose.

Syrphid fly larvae can consume one aphid a minute, grabbing the aphid in its jaws and sucking out the
body contents before discarding the skin and heading to the next aphid. The adults lay their eggs among
colonies of aphids. Larvae eat until they can no longer balance on the plant, dropping to the soil to pupate.
They are extremely beneficial in gardens, as aphid infestations can both destroy plants and be unsightly.
Aphids (plant lice) are among the most destructive insect pests on cultivated plants and have made
enemies of farmers and gardeners all over the world. They are a favorite food of Ladybugs and
Syrphid fly larvae, as well as some parasitic wasps, crab spiders and lacewings, and others.
Images of an aphid infestation on Kalanchoe are on the Miscellaneous Insects page.


Hoverfly on Daisy 1231

A Eupeodes Syrphid fly on a Daisy.

Syrphid flies are considered to be the second most important group of flowering plant pollinators after bees.
They visit flowers on a wide range of wild plants and agricultural crops, and while Syrphids cannot carry as much
pollen as bees, they visit a larger number of flowers to compensate. Some species are generalist pollinators and
forage on a wide variety of plants, while others are more specialists and tend to forage on only one plant species.
Many Syrphid flies prefer white or yellow flowers, and have short tongues and tend to visit plants with open flowers.


Long-legged Fly 8251c M


Long-legged Fly 8258c M

A metallic green Long-legged Fly in the family Dolichopodidae, resting on a leaf in Southern California.

There are over 7000 species of Dolichopods (long-legged Flies) in about 230 genera worldwide.
Many are metallic green or metallic bronze, or give off metallic bronze highlights depending on angle.
They are often found in grassy areas or on leaves. Adults are predators, feeding on small invertebrates
such as aphids and mosquito larvae. These flies are often the types seen in ancient amber deposits.
These beneficial flies are typically found in wet areas, although some species prefer drier climates.


Robber Fly Shadow Lake 2356c

A Robber Fly (genus Nevadasilus) or Assassin Fly resting on a rock alongside Shadow Lake, on the John Muir Trail at 9000 feet near Mammoth Mountain in the Sierra Nevadas. A powerfully-built, bristly fly, these are aggressive predators that feed on other insects which they ambush or catch in flight.


Crane Fly 2734c

A Crane Fly (Family Tipulidae) or Mosquito Hawk, resting on a leaf in Southern California. There are over 15,000 species of Tipulidae in 525 genera, making this one of the largest group of flies. They resemble a giant mosquito, and the larvae of some species eat mosquito larvae. Adults live 10-15 days.


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Dragonflies and Damselflies

Dragonflies and Damselflies are insects in the order Odonata, and inhabit areas around water. The size of
the population of Odonata species is a good indicator of water quality in the area. Most Dragonflies rest with
their wings spread out horizontally, and most Damselfly species rest with their wings closed against their body.

Unlike most flies which have two wings, Dragonflies and Damselflies have four wings.

Ancestors of dragonflies were the largest insects in history (the Griffenfly M. permiana had a 28” wingspan).
The specimen found in Elmo, Kansas in 1937 had a 17” long body length from head to tail. Meganisoptera
were able to grow so large because the atmosphere in the late Carboniferous to Permian eras had a
higher percentage of oxygen, allowing their tracheal breathing systems to function. The greater air
density and huge wings enabled these mega-insects to fly... as air density dropped they died off.
The griffenflies dominated the air (flying vertebrates arrived more than 100 million years later).


Blue Dragonfly 4249

The Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) is a dragonfly in the skimmer family. These images are of males.
The three upper images are western males from California, which have a blue thorax, the eastern male further
below was taken in Huntsville, Alabama, and has a black thorax with yellow-green stripes. Juveniles have this
greenish-yellow striped aspect to their thorax, and yellow dashes along the abdomen. Females have stubbier
abdomens, and both the thorax and abdomen have yellow or yellowish-green stripes along the sides and top.


Blue Dragonfly 4256 M


Blue Dragonfly 4260 M

Blue Dashers are among the most abundant dragonflies in the US. Most have metallic green eyes, although
some have blue-green eyes with reddish-brown patches as seen in the individual above. They spend much of
their time perched on aquatic plants near their breeding environment, such as these shown above perched on
Lotus at Echo Park Lake in Los Angeles, California. As seen in these images, Blue Dashers often fold their
wings forward, sometimes far enough to cover their eyes. Males are territorial and aggressive to intruders.


Blue Dragonfly 6229c M

A male Eastern Blue Dasher perched over a stream in Huntsville, Alabama, with the typical striped thorax.
Naiads (larvae, also called nymphs... the mythological Naiads were water nymphs) feed on aquatic insects
such as mosquito larvae, other fly larvae, freshwater shrimp, small fish and tadpoles. Adults will eat almost
any soft-bodied insect including mosquitos, flies, butterflies and moths, flying ants, termites, mayflies, etc.
Like all dragonflies, their wings can move independently, allowing them to hover and fly in any direction.


Damselfly 0821

A male Vivid Dancer Damselfly perched on a branch in Temescal Canyon, near the Pacific Ocean in
Pacific Palisades, CA. The Vivid Dancer Damselfly was named as the Nevada State Insect in 2009.

The Vivid Dancer male (Argia vivida) is a vivid electric blue, although some have a slight violet tinge.
The females are tan to gray. Both sexes have rear-pointing arrowheads on middle abdomen segments,
which can be seen best in images 0841c and X2748 below. There is a broad black stripe atop the thorax.
Some females exhibit a blue-and-black andromorphic form which mimics the male except for the ovipositor.
When they first emerge from the nymph stage (often called Naiads because they live in the water, and the
ancient Greeks called water nymphs Naiads), they are called Tenerals, and they are nearly transparent.
They mature rapidly and darken. Immature males look like light females with barely noticeable thorax
and abdominal markings. As the Damselflies get older, their colors fade (as do the Dragonflies).


Damselfly 0818c


Damselfly 0826c

A recently matured male (left) and a female Vivid Dancer in Temescal Canyon, Pacific Palisades, CA.

Argia Damselflies (the Dancers) is a diverse genus containing about 114 species, with new species still
being discovered. They are often near flowing water, although the top four were taken in Temescal Canyon,
which can be rather dry and hot in late July. Dancers generally hold their wings above the body, while the
similar-looking Bluets generally hold their wings alongside the body. Note that the side thoracic stripe is
pinched in the middle... this is typical of the Vivid Dancer and some other Dancers, but along with the
mid-segment arrowhead markings and wing position the Vivid Dancer can be identified in the field.


Damselfly 0841c

Damselflies eat much the same diet as Dragonflies (soft-bodied insects, e.g. mosquitos, flies and moths).
Unlike Dragonflies, whose eyes take up nearly the entire head, Damselflies have smaller, separated eyes.
Like Dragonflies, more than 80% of their brains are devoted to processing visual information. Damselflies
and Dragonflies both have a prehensile labium, which can be extended forward from underneath the head,
allowing them to catch prey faster than most prey can react. Their mouths are specially adapted to biting.


Damselfly X2748

A male Vivid Dancer Damselfly perched in Huntington Gardens in San Marino, CA. Note the notch in the
upper (leading) edge of the wing.  Both Dragonflies and Damselflies have this characteristic nodus (notch).
Both Dragonflies and Damselflies have two pairs of membranous wings, with veins that criss-cross to add
strength and stability to the wing. The rear wings of Dragonflies have a broader base and are longer than
front wings, while on Damselflies the wings are similar in shape, reducing flight efficiency somewhat.


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Dragonfly on Lotus 0299 M


Dragonfly on Lotus 0753 M

Male Flame Skimmer Dragonflies perched on Lotus blossoms in Echo Park Lake, Los Angeles, California.

The male Flame Skimmer Dragonfly (Libellula saturata) is red-orange all over its body, including the eyes.
The wings are reddish from the base to just beyond the nodus (the notch in the leading edge of the wings),
and the leading edge of the wings also show a red streak, although the second vein is sometimes yellow.
The female is paler than males, and has a dull reddish-brown body. The leading edge of the wings have
an orange streak and brown streaks near the base, the second vein is always yellow, and occasionally
a female has coloration that mimics the male (they can be distinguished by the end of the abdomen).


Dragonfly on Lotus 4235

Detail of the wings of a male Flame Skimmer Dragonfly perched on a Lotus blossom.

Flame Skimmers prefer warm water ponds, warm slow-moving streams and hot springs.
Males stake out and defend territory overlooking a prime breeding location and hawk insects
while perched, keeping an eye out for females and interlopers. They leave their preferred perch
for a quick patrol of their territory and generally return to the same perch or another one nearby.
Dragonflies only eat prey which they capture in mid-air using their extensible labium and feet.
A Harvard study found that they could catch 90-95% of insects released into their enclosure.
Their order name Odonata means “toothed one” in Greek and refers to their serrated teeth.


Dragonfly on Lotus 4241 M

Detail of the wings, wing attachments, thorax and head of a male Flame Skimmer on Lotus.

Flame Skimmer Dragonflies always perch with their wings held flat rather than down and forward.
When a suitable insect flies by, the dragonfly swoops off and grabs it, returning to its perch to eat.
Dragonflies can catch and eat hundreds of mosquitoes and other flying insects in a single day.
Besides keeping control of the mosquito population, they eat other flies, bees, wasps, etc.
They are prey for birds, lizards, frogs, spiders, fish and water bugs, and other dragonflies.


Dragonfly on Lotus 4243 M

A profile view of a male Flame Skimmer Dragonfly perched on a Lotus blossom. Note the enormous eyes.

Nearly the entire head of a dragonfly is taken up by its huge multifaceted eyes, with 30,000 facets, each of
which create an image that is processed by the brain. In addition to the three opsins that humans have which
allow us to see red, green and blue (one color for each light-sensing protein, or opsin), dragonflies have two
additional opsins that allow them to see UV light and the plane of light polarization. These reduce the glare
on the surface of the water and possibly help them navigate. The large eyes give them 360 degree vision.


Dragonfly on Lotus 4264

A profile view of a male Flame Skimmer Dragonfly perched on a Lotus blossom.

Dragonflies use their amazing visual capabilities to help calculate the distance of their prey,
the direction it is moving, and the speed it is flying, allowing them to intercept it by flying toward
the calculated spot where the prey will be rather than tracking it in flight. This is generally only
possible for animals with a complex nervous system, but obviously nobody told dragonflies.
They are capable of isolating a single insect in a swarm, or even alternating concentration
on several insects in a swarm, switching focus from one to another, maintaining track on
surrounding insects so they can capture their prey and avoid collisions. This was the
subject of a study by Dr. S.D. Wiederman of the University of Adelaide, Australia.


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Dragonfly on Lotus 4305


Dragonfly on Lotus 6980

Flame Skimmer dragonflies on Lotus blossoms at Echo Park (left) and Huntington Gardens (right).

The four wings of dragonflies operate independently, allowing flight dynamics like a helicopter. they
can fly forwards, backwards, sideways, hover, and turn on a pinhead. They can even fly upside down.
Literally no other insect has this much control over their wings. Damselflies have nearly the same
flight dynamics, but damselfly wings are not quite as efficient due to their structural differences.


Dragonfly on Lotus 4308 M


Dragonfly on Lotus 4311 M

Detail of the wing vein structure of a Flame Skimmer dragonfly male on Lotus at Echo Park in Los Angeles.


Dragonfly on Lotus 4480 M

A profile view of a male Flame Skimmer Dragonfly perched on a Lotus blossom.


Dragonfly on Lotus 7799 M

A head-on view of a Flame Skimmer Dragonfly at Echo Park. Note that the wings are held horizontally.

There are about 5900 species of dragonflies, located all over the world except in Antarctica. Over 450
of these species live in the United States. Most of the dragonfly species live in remote tropical areas.


Dragonfly on Lotus 8296 M

A male Flame Skimmer dragonfly on Lotus at Echo Park in Los Angeles, California.


Yellow Dragonfly 6481 M

A Mexican Amberwing (Perithemis intensa) perched over the Lotus pond in the Japanese Garden at
Huntington Gardens in San Marino, California. These are smaller dragonflies than the Flame Skimmer
at a little over an inch long. They tend to perch on twigs over ponds, lakes, small streams or river pools.
They are also in the family Libellulidae, as are the Flame Skimmers (the largest family of dragonflies).
They live in southern California, the southern tip of Nevada, southwestern Arizona and northern Mexico.


The Banner below leads to the Insect Macros Collection where images can be selected.


There are 4 Galleries in the the Insect Macros Collection:

Bees & Wasps                    Butterflies
Insects C, D, F              Insects K to S


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Miscellaneous Insects page.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Butterflies section.