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Dragonflies

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Like the birds and butterflies, the dragonflies of the desert come in vibrant colors. They fly; they have interesting life histories and amazing behaviors. When they emerge from their natal waters, they change from ugly aquatic nymph to beautiful, dazzling flying predators. See them during the spring, summer and early fall months.The desert species of dragonflies vary in size from the Giant Darner, which at nearly six inches is the largest in North America, to the Citrine Forktail, a damselfly, that at less than one inch is North America’s very smallest. Both of these species are desert specialists preferring arid lands with warm waters. All the in-between sizes are present too, with many shapes and a variety of hues represented

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They come not only in red, fuchsia, orange, pink, blue, gold, saffron, black, emerald, maroon, earth tones, and more, but also in metallic colors. Some have colored, spotted or banded wings; others may have clear wings but clubbed abdomens or a spike on their tail. And, no, they do not sting or bite. They have mouths that they do use to bite their prey (mostly mosquitoes and gnats) but they do not bite people unless caught and handled roughly, and even then it's akin to getting a good pinch. They have no stingers: the projections on the end of their abdomens are their claspers, used by the male to hold the female in their unique 'wheel' mating position.
 
All you really need in order to be a dragonfly watcher are you eyes.   However optional items would include shoes that can get wet, an insect  net, a 10-20X magnifying hand lens, zip-lock baggies/glassine envelopes,  a good guide and plenty of sunscreen. If you don't own close-focus binoculars, then a camera with a zoom lens can also be helpful: often regular ‘birding’ binoculars won't focus in close enough while a camera will.  You can click for a picture, or just use the camera for viewing. Some dragonflies need to be caught and held to learn their identifications, thus the net and zip-lock/glassine baggies. Dragonflies and damselflies can be held by their strong wings; folding the wings above their abdomens. Observe them thus in hand or temporarily placed in the baggies, viewing their markings before releasing them. But it is also enjoyable just to watch their amazing aerial antics.

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By Ashley M. Randall

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