While wading in the lake yesterday, my attention was drawn to a flurry of activity just above the water’s surface a few yards away. Upon closer examination, I found that I was privileged to be witnessing the mating dance of several dozen delicate damselflies, which I looked up in our dragonfly guide and more closely identified as Familiar Bluets (Enallagma civile). I have witnessed similar activity many times before and once, almost exactly 9 years ago, while I was in the lake with my first digital camera close at hand, saw several attached pairs of similar damsels—possibly Eastern Red Damsels (Amphiagrion saucium)—perching delicately on small pieces of flotsam, and carefully followed their drift, making a few printable photos in the process.
On that occasion I didn’t really look that closely at what they were actually doing, but rather jumped at the opportunity to get some photos of them while they were available and distracted, and before they drifted away.
Yesterday, on the other hand, I did take the time for a much closer examination, and it paid off rather handsomely. The vast majority of the damsels flitting around together were likewise attached in pairs, the males clasping the females just behind their heads…
…but this time, as I observed their behavior patiently, it became apparent that they were waiting for the tips of several plants—that were growing from the lake bottom to just beneath the surface in about three feet of water—to protrude briefly above the water level when the troughs of the gentle wavelets permitted this. The goal of each newly-mated female was to latch on to the tip and hang on, even when it submerged again. When she was successful, the male immediately released her and resumed flight, while she proceeded to climb slowly but deliberately down the stem of the plant to a depth of a foot or so, and then arched her long abdomen down so that its tip was in contact with the stem or some other convenient plant part, and pretty obviously laid her eggs there.
When she had completed her task, she simply let go her hold, popped to the surface again like a little cork, and immediately and apparently effortlessly flitted away. What a delight to be able to observe, record, and share such a wonder of nature!