The Assassins

In this section, Saevus brings to you short stories of life from the undergrowth. These critters often escape our attention but they can be of immense importance in the natural world.

Cupid’s arrow hits damselflies during the monsoon months, and fora good reason. Damselflies lay eggs in aquatic vegetation and their nymphs are completely aquatic. But prior to mating,both male and female damselflies go through elaborate mating displays to check if the mating partner is a suitable one. Being very colorful and blessed with exceptional eyesight, these displays mostly revolve around visual keys; a flick of their iridescent wings or curling their brilliantly-colored abdomen being the most common. Although the scene unfolds at a macro level, it can be quite a pleasure to watch.

Once a partner is selected, the male damselfly gets hold of the female by her thorax using his claspers, which are located at the tip of the abdomen. The female bends her abdomen and bring sits tip closer to the second abdominal segment of the male, from where the male deposits his sperms. Immediately after mating, the female proceeds to lay eggs, with the male either still holding onto her or guarding her closely to prevent another male from‘kidnapping’ her.

Despite their weak-looking appearance, damselflies are excellent predators. Being predators, both as nymphs and adults, they are important in the ecosystem. They help keep a check on the numbers of smaller insects, such as mosquitoes. Vanishing wetlands pose a serious threat to several damselfly species and consequently to us, as cases of mosquito and other harmful insect related diseases will increase.

The copulating position of the Odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) is referred to as a‘mating wheel’ and in case of the damselflies,closely resembles the shape of a heart!

Image by :Dr. Anand Narvekar

This article first appeared in the March 2015 edition of Saevus magazine


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