Midwest Wilderness connections Eco-sweep: Dragonflies and Ecological Services
While manning a booth at the farmers market yesterday, I noted dragonflies zipping above the crowd. The dragonflies were providing what is called an ecological service to the public, a service we oftentimes take for granted.
Dragonflies are stealthy, voracious predators of mosquitoes, flies and gnats. Studies have shown that dragonflies can be over 90% successful at capturing their prey, a statistic that puts all other predators to shame. A single dragonfly can consume hundreds of mosquitoes daily.
The photograph in this post is of a female twelve-spotted skimmer at Engeldinger Marsh, a complex of prairie pothole wetlands surrounded by agricultural fields in Iowa. The Marsh was producing droves of dragonflies that were zipping over the fence to feed on pests on the soybean crop. A free, non-toxic ecological service.
While working with a livestock farmer in southern Illinois, he asked me to ID the dragonflies that were zipping around and over his cattle. He knew the dragonflies were providing benefits to him and his animals. I noted dragonflies doing the same think over a pasture in east central Illinois, as seen in the included video.
To capitalize on these ecological services, we need to preserve and restore quality natural habitats of the right size, type, and distribution throughout the landscape.