Beauty and the Beast

Do you ever wake up early and can’t get back to sleep? I do, and on one warm morning this week I gave up and got up and sat by our ornamental pond. The early sun was reflected in the water and the fish were splashing about.

But I was watching something else. You see, on one of the long stems of the arrowhead pond plant, I could see the most fearsome, mysterious dark creature. It had come up from the depths of the water in the night and climbed up a stalk. It clung there waiting for what was about to happen next.

It is important that the sun was on the creature and it had chosen well. If you see one coming out of your pond in the morning you have time to have breakfast now, because the next stage can take up to three hours.

What I had been looking at was a dragonfly larva. After grubbing about at the bottom of our pond for a few years it was ready to change into a dragonfly. It had grown from an egg laid on plants in the water. Strangely, for an insect, it doesn’t have a pupa (chrysalis) stage.

I waited and saw the skin split and the head, legs and wings came out. They were very pale like a plant that had not been in the sun. Then, as nothing seemed to be happening, I went away for a coffee and when I came back there was a beautiful dragonfly. Colourless in the morning light. As the sun grew hotter my dragonfly pumped up to normal size.

This was a green hawker dragonfly – we often see them in the garden hunting for food at this time of year. Sometimes I see them basking on a warm stone or on our wooden arch which faces south. This one came to see me flying close and low, staring at me with her big eyes, each with thousands of facets. Did she like the mosaic picture of me?

I flatter myself she is looking for a mate.

 Vicky will be reading from her Nature Notes Tizer column at The Hermon Chapel Arts Centre this Friday 25th July at 8pm. An evening of music and readings.