In poetry and in warfare, and flying near you, some of the most audacious animals on Earth
I *almost* put a picture of the prettiest orange-ish dragonfly in my last newsletter and decided against it but now wish I had! One of the other members of my wilderness trail crew and I watched it for a long time. (We might have been procrastinating getting back to work in the persistent rain but it was still a worthwhile way to spend time.)
What a lovely profile! And I agree wholeheartedly with the praise about your writing. It's truly unique among nature writing. 🦋 The new logo is just perfect.
Not to be too much the well actually guy, but I think damselfly and dragonfly naiads have been observed to commit "surplus killing", though there are good reasons to think the behavior has adaptive value. Fincke, Ola M. "Population regulation of a tropical damselfly in the larval stage by food limitation, cannibalism, intraguild predation and habitat drying." Oecologia 100 (1994): 118-127, among other citations.
I don't think adults have been observed to do so--the competition in crowded habitats disappears and the efficiency of dragonfly/damselfly predation (plus I presume the high metabolic costs of their flight) gets rid of any adaptive reasons to surplus kill.
Love the logo. Seems dragonflies popped around here about a week ago. And I thought identifying birds was hard!!
When I was a child, my ever - tactful grandmother called them " devil's darning needles " which was apparently meant to keep the grandkids quiet, neat & orderly like we were in church. It was NOT 100 % effective. Not even 45 % effective. Beautiful creatures though. Graceful - looking.
I had noticed the new logo and the subtleties of the wings 🪶🌿👐 - love it! 💚
What a well-woven post. A pleasure to read and to ponder on. Thanks, Bryan.
A wonderful piece and alumni spotlight. Thank you for sharing.
I loved this Boston Globe deputy editor Kelly Horan who recalls sitting up straighter and paying attention when Pfeiffer first submitted an essay. . . . Bryan has a beautiful gift,” she says. “He has managed the neat trick of emerging into adulthood with his sense of wonder fully formed. He sees things I think many people don’t even know exist.”
Love the new logo! This makes me think of one of my all time favorite science class projects in middle school, in which I had to write a report about dragonflies and also made an enormous collage of one out of all kinds of colors of ripped magazine pages, glued onto a piece of cardboard. I don’t remember much about actual said report but I remember loving that visual interpretation. Which I guess is to say: yet another time when the beauty of nature captivates!
Bryan, what a joy to find oneself mixed in amongst so much beauty and talent. My love & I were, just days ago, staring adoringly at your new logo. Kelly did a gorgeous job.
That’s an extremely powerful image, of Ken, and the dragonfly, and the machine gun. It’s a mighty fine haiku, as well.
And, what a fantastic profile! Dragonflies really are audacious! And, it probably goes without saying, but I am so very grateful that you are alive.
Thank you, again, for your generosity and your support. It makes all the fear & the struggle totally worth it, and, it’s an honour to be mentioned aside the great David E. Perry!
I enjoy your writing but it mostly covers plants, animals and places unfamiliar to me. It was good to come across a species I know well enough by sight. That little purple damsel, or a close relative, is common enough on the Annamite streams. It is really metallic purple. No better way to describe the colour. If you bought metallic purple card in a craft shop, it would be that colour. It clings close to the stones and folds its wings tight when landed, looking almost like a stonefly. Then a pair of them will up and flutter when your boots disturb them.
Thank you for this! My favorite subject, dragonflies, and written so beautifully. And yes, the money spent on Substack subs is well worth it.
What a fun read. Just what my brain needed to wind down from the day and remember what’s important and good in this noisy world. (And your new logo is superb!)
Beautiful post, thank you Bryan, imagine if dragonflies had the power to disarm everyone, not just those ready and willing to surrender.
Love the new logo, though it feels more like a totem, or talisman , or both!
Bryan, I saw this last night and thought you might be interested. If you don't subscribe, I can make a PDF for you. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2023/08/29/shifting-baselines-maine-forests/
from an earlier post in "My Two Cents" - https://alchristie.substack.com/p/engineers-get-their-inspiration-from
Dragonflies and “micro air vehicles”
We have a little pond and I’ve always been fascinated by watching dragonflies zoom around so skillfully that it would make an ace pilot wish he could do one tenth as well.
Co-author Stuart Burgess, professor of engineering design at the U of Bristol, describes in detail a 4 year project to develop an “insect-inspired micro air vehicle”. The inspiration? Dragonflies. They used a high speed camera to replay the wing motion 40 times slower, so they could see just how the wings flapped and twisted.
“We observed that, with every single stroke, there were two precise twisting actions taking place, one near the end of the upstroke and one near the end of the downstroke…we were also struck by how effortlessly and gracefully the dragonfly could manoeuvre. With perfect control, it could move forwards, backwards, hover, and even move sideways.”
He also tells about the dragonfly life cycle, which starts as an egg, then a bottom-dwelling nymph, then it climbs out of the water and morphs into a dragonfly.
“It is astounding to think that a dragonfly starts as a swimming creature, then briefly becomes a crawling creature (they climb up the stalk of a water plant to the surface) and then it becomes one with supreme flying abilities. That is like a submarine that is also an amphibious vehicle that can climb out of the water and then turn into a helicopter…the dragonfly is a creature whose design seems almost beyond human comprehension.”