Common Hawkers in our garden pond.

03rd July 2012
A few years ago we created a small pond, about eight feet by six feet in an area of our garden that wasn't used for anything in particular, it is down below the house backing onto a small deciduous copse. Our thoughts were originally that it would be a good place for birds to drink and bathe. However, year on year there is a very large amount of aquatic life developing there. It is quite remarkable just how varied the insect and amphibious life is in such a small body of water. There are Pond Skaters, Water Boatmen, a huge amount of Water Snails and various other water loving Beetles that I can't identify. There is also a colony of Common Newts that have taken up residence.
This week we noticed some Dragonfly Nymphs were starting to climb up the plant stems and then begin to 'Emerge' as Common Hawker Dragonflies. Originally we had seen some Dragonflies over the pond but just thought they were attracted by the water. However, immediately after the creation of the pond they must have been laying eggs there.
They mate in the air then lay their eggs usually on a plant stem, once hatched the life cycle of the Dragonfly begins as a Nymph. They have no wings yet and they live in the water while they grow. This remarkably can take between three and four years, that's how I know they laid eggs immediately the pond was created. Once the Nymphs cycle is complete they will remain in the water until the next spring until it is warm enough to emerge.
They prefer still water like ponds and marshes where it's calmer and then it's a matter of survival, sometimes bigger Nymphs eating smaller ones.
Once the Nymphs are fully grown, if the weather is suitable, they will complete their metamorphosis by crawling out of the water onto a plant stem and shedding their skin.
They will then become a Dragonfly, the skin left behind is called the 'Exuvia' this may stick to a plant for some time after the Dragonfly has emerged and flown away.
Once they have flown they will look for food and then a mate, once mated the female will again look for a calm body of water to lay her eggs and this fascinating life cycle will begin all over again!
An adult Dragonfly doesn't live for very long, all that effort over three years or so for about two months of life....REMARKABLE!
Interesting fact, Dragonflies have 30,000 eyes, this is the number of 'Omnatidia' in their compound eye structure, giving them 360 degree vision.
I have been cursing this abominable weather we are having to endure presently, in this instance it has made it very difficult for these beautiful insects to complete their life cycle. The plant stems in the pond were blowing around in the wind while they clung precariously to life and the rain hindered the drying of their wings. I am very pleased to say that after all that we witnessed no less than twenty five now adult Dragonflies emerge and fly away to complete their life cycle.
I managed to take some shots of them but it was very difficult having no close up lens and battling the wind.
Please see Mammals, Reptiles and Insects UK.