THE EMPORER RULES SUPREME!

 

What stunning native wildlife we have here in Ireland often just waiting for us to discover it and unlock a world of fascination and beauty.
As is the case with our wonderful dragonflies, which can be seen during Summer and into Autumn on freshwater bodies all around the country.
One of those dragonflies that can be spotted in many such locations at the moment, is the dazzling Emperor Dragonfly.

It can be seen on larger ponds, on lakes and canals during June, July and August.

They are highly active on warm sunny days patrolling their territories, hunting and ultimately looking for a mate, to complete their incredible lifecycle.

These beautiful creatures are one of our fourteen native dragonfly species we have here in Ireland and one of our largest dragonfly species.
They are mind bendingly fascinating! You probably can sense our love here at Wildacres for these aquatically awesome aerial winged wonders!

When we think of dragonflies, the image conjured up generally is of large colourful insects to be spotted flying at speed near freshwater ponds and lakes.
Though in fact they live most of their incredible lives underwater, in the larval nymph stage.

 

Female_Emperor_dragonfly_at_Wildacres_egg_laying_pondweed

Female Emperor dragonfly at Wildacres egg laying on Broadleaf pondweed

 

Male emperor dragonflies are pale blue, with an apple-green thorax and a black stripe running the length of the body. Females are similar, but a duller shade of green and blue. Both have an eye colour which is a mix of again, blue and green.

Female Emperors, currently to be seen on the wing, will lay their eggs directly into pondweed plants using their scythe like ovipositors to cut an opening for the egg to be inserted.

The eggs will hatch after three weeks, and the aquatic larvae called a nymph, will spend one to two years underwater as a voracious aquatic predator. As it grows it can moult up to 20 times. These differing stages of development are referred to as “Instars”.

During this aquatic life phase, the nymph instar will prey on a wide variety of pondlife, everything from small fish to tadpoles to even other smaller dragonfly nymphs!

To feed they have an extended mouthpart, with teethlike serrations that they will project forward at speed to seize their unsuspecting prey.
To move underwater they propel themselves forward by squirting jets of water out of, for want of a more technical term, their butts!

 

Early Instar of Emperor Dragonfly nymph at Wildacres

Early Instar of Emperor Dragonfly nymph at Wildacres

 

Fully developed Instar Emperor Dragonfly nymph pond sampling at Wildacres


Fully developed Instar of Emperor Dragonfly nymph at Wildacres

 

Then when ready to start their final and arguably most important, short phase of their lives, they leave their watery home at night, crawling up emergent vegetation to finally burst out of their larval exoskeleton, to become a stunningly colourful, beautiful winged highly efficient aerial predator.

 

Fully developed Emperor Dragonfly nymph empty casing Exuvia

Fully developed Emperor Dragonfly nymph empty casing (Exuvia)

 

This final stage of their lives lasts only a brief period, approximately 10 days or so in the case of Emperor dragonflies. During this time, the males will relentlessly patrol their watery territory, clashing with and chasing off other males and even other dragonfly species, and hunting with a deadly accuracy.
They are incredibly capable of flying upwards, downwards backwards and forwards, as well as hovering, all by controlling each of their four wings separately.

They can fly up to 38 kmph and catch an incredible 90% plus of prey they pursue. They catch their prey by seizing it with their long bristly legs in flight and will then proceed to eat it whilst still flying, only taking brief moments of rest on a favoured waterside perch. Their prey consists of all manner of flying insects to include butterflies, moths, smaller damselflies, and even smaller species of dragonflies.

It is so important we all discover the wonder of these and all our beautiful native plants and animals. If we do not learn about them, we cannot value and cherish them and if we don’t value and cherish them, ultimately we will not protect them. So why not get out there and get your dose of that priceless feelgood factor by helping dragonflies and all our other precious wildlife.

So, what can you do to help?

To answer that we need ask ourselves another broader question.
What do Dragonflies (and all our wildlife species) need to survive and more importantly flourish?

Like us they need:

• Food. In the case of dragonflies, as adults they need an abundant source of prey to fuel their quest to find a mate and go on to reproduce. Then their young in the form of nymphs, need clean freshwater wildlife ponds to develop in to propel their growth towards their final metamorphosis into their adult form.

• Water. Essential to all our native wildlife and of course to dragonflies as a habitat to breed in. A suitably constructed wildlife pond is an almost instantaneous way to attract wildlife into any area and to help biodiversity recover.

• Shelter. Dragonflies in their adult form need grasses, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees to shelter in. They will use these different habitats to shelter from inclement weather, hide away from predators, and to shelter in sometimes when mating.

• Biodiversity Friendly Management. They need outdoor spaces managed in a way that provides them with the above necessities, and a habitat not poisoned with noxious pesticides, other chemicals or organic pollutants.

In the absence of widespread suitable wild habitats how we manage our outdoor spaces becomes even more vitally important for wildlife, and in this case dragonflies.

At Wildacres we always try to get the important message across that every action to help Biodiversity, no matter how small, makes a real difference!
So why not get started helping restore biodiversity, a wonderful experience which will enrich your life, that of your loved ones and that of future generations to come.

 

Male Emperor at Wildacres Nature Reserve.

Male Emperor at Wildacres Nature Reserve

 

At Wildacres we have new dates up for our extremely popular and regularly sold-out series of workshops:

Creating a Wildlife Pond
This extremely popular workshop will leave you inspired and informed as to how to make your very own wildlife pond.
As well as the incredible array of other creatures that will move into your newly created pond oasis to delight you, who knows, you might just be thrilled one day to see a stunning Emperor Dragonfly take up residence.
As part of the workshop, you will get to enjoy a fascinating tour of the Nature Reserves wildlife ponds (we are now up to 26 with more planned) a sit down indoor engaging visually colourful and informative presentation in the Big Green Barn and a chat, with a cuppa and tasty bikkies, overlooking our main wildlife pond.

Another option for further inspiration and a wonderful day out, why not book into our popular upcoming:

Creating a Nature Reserve

Whether you have your own garden, acres of land or a community space, this workshop will help you learn how to bring biodiversity back through managed rewilding: native trees and hedgerow, log piles, wild corners, ponds, wildflower meadows/patches/lawn, bird and bat boxes and more!

You will learn about several ways to do this, where to start, and the wonderful wildlife species you would expect to see return.
As part of the workshop, you will get to enjoy a fascinating tour of the Nature Reserve, a sit down indoor engaging visually colourful and informative presentation in the Big Green Barn and a chat, with a cuppa and tasty bikkies, overlooking our main wildlife pond.

So hopefully we will get the chance to meet and to welcome you to Wildacres Nature Reserve and Biodiversity Education centre.

We would love to hear and see how you get on with creating your own wildlife habitats and hopefully see you soon at Wildacres for one of our events.
Take Care & Best Wishes
Brian & Gilly.

 

Co-founders of Wildacres Nature Reserve Wicklow Ireland