Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Search for Ohio's Rare Jewels

One of Ohio's endangered species, the River Jewelwing damselfly has only one known population in Northeast Ohio. This beautiful water-born wonder has always captured my imagination with the last third of its wings tinted dark, unlike the Ebony Jewelwing's totally blackened wings.

River Jewelwing photo by Dennis Paulson (used with permission.)

Odonates, damsel and dragonflies, are bio indicators for water quality and interesting insects in their own right. Our featured damselfly is known for the unusual courtship flight by the males, and the mind-blowing underwater egg laying feat accomplished by the females.

Why should we botany types care about insects? There is still much we can learn from studying insects and their adaptations, both physical and chemical. Many have a special relationship with a host plant, and knowing botany can increase our odds of searching out these rare species. Just focus the search in the location of the host plants, i.e. milkweed plants and monarch butterflies.

River Jewelwings are said to lay their eggs on Eel Grass, Vallisneria americana. So if there are other River Jewelwings to be found in Ohio- we might be well to put a botanist on the job. Better yet, a botanist who knows their insects will have a distinct advantage!

For more information about these and other odonates found in Ohio, you'll want to get a copy of the very fine guide, Dragonflies and Damselflies of Northeast Ohio which was produced by the folks at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

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