A blue dasher dragonfly is perched on the antenna of the author’s truck, July 26, 2018. (Kevin Ambrose)

Have you noticed a lot of dragonflies skimming over ponds, creeks, yards and even parking lots? They seem to be more active than usual this summer, and weather is playing a role in their behavior.

We were first notified about the abundant bugs back on July 23 when Scott Spendolini tweeted:

According to wildlife enthusiast Phyllis Carlson, the increased dragonfly activity is probably a result of the abundant rain this summer, which has helped to produce more of the dragonfly’s insect prey, such as mosquitoes. Dragonflies are voracious and agile predators that can catch and eat 30 or more mosquitoes per day.

Because of the persistent rain, ground conditions have stayed moist, and mosquitoes and other insects have flourished, providing dragonflies a flying smorgasbord for feasting.

Dragonflies catch their prey in the air with their feet and devour them with their strong, serrated mandibles. With four wings, dragonflies can out-fly all of their food sources, which include bees, butterflies, gnats, caddis flies, mayflies and mosquitoes.

They fly up, down, sideways, and instantly change direction during flight with amazing speed.  They can also hover in air and spin, much like a helicopter.

Nature’s little x-wing fighters. These are sequential frame grabs from the above video that shows the maneuverability and wing position of whitetail dragonflies in flight. The video was shot at 60 frames per second. (Kevin Ambrose)

I asked outdoorsman and award-winning fisherman Stephen Miklandric to confirm that dragonflies are more active this summer. He responded: “I can say that I’m seeing a lot more of them this year over last. I don’t know why, but it could be due to how wet this year has been.”

So I went out into the field with my camera to verify for myself that dragonflies are active, and to snap a few photos and videos of the big-eyed bug with a long tail.

After six photo missions during the span of two weeks, I can safely state that I saw a large number of dragonflies and damselflies buzzing around local ponds and creeks, and even in my own backyard. If you look at the first photo in this post, a dragonfly found me. A blue dasher posed for a photo on my truck’s antenna while it was parked in my driveway, between my photo missions.

I will also note that I was chewed up by mosquitoes during my bug shoots, which confirmed that a primary food source for dragonflies is indeed plentiful. Mosquitoes are quite numerous this summer, and those little bloodsuckers made my photo shoots a bit unpleasant.

A close-up photo of a clubtail dragonfly’s head. Dragonflies can bite if caught and handled, and this particular dragonfly bit the photographer. (Phyllis Carlson)

Besides being excellent fliers while hunting mosquitoes and other insects, dragonflies are highly territorial, and much of their flying is to chase and fight other dragonflies for a preferred breeding space. In the videos that I have included in this post, dragonflies can be seen sparring and chasing each other to establish dominance for their territory, or for their perch.

Dragonflies do have predators despite their quickness and agility in the air. I’ve watched smallmouth bass jump up from the water and catch them in midair, and a variety of birds also feed on them, including the swallow.

Let us know if you’ve seen a lot of dragonflies this summer, and where you saw them. They are truly fascinating to watch.

The blue dasher dragonfly. (Dennis Govoni)

Dragonfly fact No. 1: Dragonfly fossils show that at one time they had a wingspan that exceeded two feet.

A calico pennant dragonfly covered with dew. (Dennis Govoni)

Dragonfly fact No. 2: During their nymph phase, which can last one or more years, they must remain underwater. The dragonfly nymphs eat worms, mosquito larvae, small fish and even small tadpoles.

The common whitetail dragonfly, also known as the long-tailed skimmer. (Kevin Ambrose)

Dragonfly fact No. 3:  There are more than 5,000 species of dragonflies and damselflies. They belong to the Odonata, which means “toothed one” in Greek, referring to their serrated mandibles.

A wandering glider dragonfly at rest. (Dennis Govoni)

Dragonfly fact No. 4: Dragonflies can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

Mating damselflies. (Phyllis Carlson)

Dragonfly fact No. 5: Dragonflies starve if they cannot fly. They catch their food in the air.

Dragonfly fact No. 6: Dragonflies often form a closed circle while mating, sometimes in the shape of a heart.

A close-up photo of a male ebony jewelwing damselfly. (Kevin Ambrose)

Dragonfly fact No. 7: Dragonflies can see in all directions around them except for a small region directly behind them.

A slaty skimmer dragonfly rests on a tree branch. (Kevin Ambrose)

Dragonfly fact No. 8: The globe skimmer dragonfly can fly 5,000-plus miles without stopping while crossing the Indian Ocean.

The widow skimmer dragonfly. (Dennis Govoni)

Dragonfly fact No. 9: Some dragonflies live for only a few weeks, while other dragonflies can live up to a year.

Female ebony jewelwing damselflies. (Phyllis Carlson)

Dragonfly fact No. 10: Dragonflies often hunt in groups for food.

A Halloween pennant dragonfly rests on an antenna near Richmond, Aug. 10, 2018. (Stephen Miklandric)