This time of year is perfect for seeing dragons (it’s National Dragonfly Week)… but don’t forget the damsels. In July they’re looking for love but their dating techniques are a bit ‘old school’…even for my tastes.
They may look dainty, flitting around pond margins. But watch more closely and it looks more like mass domestic abuse is happening on a sunny day in high summer.
The males will bash into happy couples mid flight, beating the rival males up, to get to a mate, pulling or biting to split pairs up. Others pounce on unsuspecting damsels sunning themselves on marginal grasses. They’ll even rape them as they lay their eggs, such are the lusts of the guys.
The females dart around to try to avoid becoming sport between two males, they can be half drowned by forceful males determined to mate. So they fight back, sometimes killing their attackers, even eating them, so a male had better be sure she’s in the mood. The thrill of the chase means that the strongest males get the girls. But to be sure they live to tell the tale, they ‘grab’ a girl (big fat gypsy style). They’ll hold her by the throat with special spiky plates on their tail, while they mate. The pair stay stuck together in tandem for a while and can often be seen flying across ponds still joined together. The male wants to hold onto her long enough to get the eggs he’s fertilised laid before an usurper turns up.
Dragonfly-like insects have been around for millions of years, they’re dinosaurs in our midst, so it must work for them. And after a brutal courtship, when they finally get it together, they form a heart shape. Who said romance is dead?
National Dragonfly Week June 11th-19th | british-dragonflies.org.uk