The image above was taken at Kealia Pond Natural Wildlife Reserve on the island of Maui. It is a coastal salt marsh that lies adjacent to the south-central, west-facing coast, on the island of Maui. The wetland stretches between the towns of Kihei and Maalaea.
Kealia Pond is a 691-acre bird sanctuary, home to 30 species of waterfowl, shorebirds, and migratory ducks.
This is a favorite spot that I frequent. There is easy access and parking. I’ve spent many hours here, walking the boardwalk and along Sugar beach. On several occasions I’ve found a quiet place on the edge of the dune and watched the dragonflies negotiate the trade winds, flying between the beach sand and the shallow water of the pond. There are several locations where, if I sit quietly, they will seek out a branch close by to rest on.
Venerated throughout history, dragonfly art has been unearthed in many excavations. An example is a blue-glazed faience dragonfly amulet was found by Flinders Petrie at Lahun, from the Late Middle Kingdom of ancient Egypt.
For some Native American tribes, dragonflies represent swiftness and activity; for the Navajo, they symbolize pure water. They are a common motif in Zuni pottery; stylized as a double-barred cross, they appear in Hopi rock art and on Pueblo necklaces. They have been used in traditional medicine in Japan and China. In Indonesia, adults are caught on poles made sticky with birdlime, then fried in oil as a delicacy.
In Europe, dragonflies have often been seen as sinister. Some English vernacular names, such as “horse-stinger”,”devil’s darning needle”, and “ear cutter”, link them with evil or injury. Swedish folklore holds that the devil uses dragonflies to weigh people’s souls. The Norwegian name for dragonflies is Øyenstikker (“eye-poker”), and in Portugal, they are sometimes called tira-olhos (“eyes-snatcher”). They are often associated with snakes, as in the Welsh name gwas-y-neidr, “adder’s servant”.
Adult dragonflies are characterized by large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings, sometimes with colored patches and an elongated body. They can be mistaken for the related group, damselflies, which are similar in structure, though usually lighter in build. The wings of most dragonflies are held flat and away from the body, while damselflies hold their wings folded at rest, along their abdomen.
Dragonflies are agile fliers, quickly changing direction, and many have brilliant iridescent or metallic colors which are produced by structural coloration, making them conspicuous in flight.
An adult dragonfly eye is compound, containing nearly 24,000 ommatidia. Dragonflies are predators, both in their aquatic larval stage, when they are known as nymp or naiads, and as adults. They are fast and agile fliers, sometimes migrating across oceans, and are often found near water.
Dragonflies and their relatives are an ancient group. The oldest fossils are of the Protodonata from 325 million years ago, during the Upper Carboniferous period in Europe. This group included the largest insect that ever lived, Meganeuropsis permiana from the early Permian, which had a wingspan around 30 inches. The fossil record of this giant insect ends with the Permian–Triassic extinction event (about 247 million years ago).
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