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In Search of Dragons and Damsels

In Search of Dragons and Damsels: a field trip with Dennis Paulson, July 23rd

Last year, Dennis Paulson, one of the most knowledgeable naturalists in the Northwest, provided a profusely illustrated lecture as part of the indoor Highland Wonders series. This summer, he shared his interest in the biodiversity and biology of dragonflies and damselflies by taking a group outdoors. The numerous lakes in the north Okanogan have diverse dragonfly and damselfly faunas. On Saturday, July 23, Dennis provided a hands-on field experience focused on the lives of dragonflies and damselflies in our region. We took a group into the field to visit several lakes in areas such as Molson and Mt Hull, beginning and ending the day in the valley, visiting a variety of habitats used by dragonflies for breeding, feeding, and completing their life cycle. We saw how many species we could identify, and watched for interesting territorial and reproductive behaviors that these species display. We carried nets to capture individuals to show them in the hand, as a close-up look is a great way to augment seeing them in the field. We also scooped some larvae/nymphs from the water to view the other part of their life cycle.  Dennis Paulson

Dennis Paulson holds the view that natural 
history is our most important science.

Dragonflies and damselflies are often called birdwatchers’ insects. Active and brilliantly colored, these four-winged predators fly everywhere over pristine wetlands. Their very different-looking larvae are dominant predators in the water below. They have the best vision and the most versatile flight of any insects, and their sex life is similarly superlative. 

Dennis would say there are no insects more interesting than dragonflies and damselflies. They are common, but because of their association with wetlands, many people go through life with little contact with these wonders of nature. “Any well-rounded naturalist should have that contact, and this is such an opportunity,” Paulson says. “We have to preserve our natural ecosystems, as much for ourselves as for the animals and plants with which we share the world. Understanding those systems and their animals and plants are essential to their conservation. Thus natural history is our most important science.”