Dragonflies and damselflies belong to the order Odonata and their larvae (naiads) possess a long and jointed labium with a spoon-like structure that opens into two sharp knife-like teeth. Odonate means “toothed-one” or “tooth-baby.” (This little one tried to eat a bullfrog tadpole in the holding bucket.) The labium can be examined by gently pulling it with a tweezers. The naiad above was admired, thanked and released unharmed.
Odonate larvae are often difficult to identify, but the bright green larvae of the Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) are distinctive. I spent a few mornings this week collecting and observing dragonfly larva and adults with photographer Robert Smith and filmmaker Emma Piper-Burket in Fremont County, Iowa. Of course we made time to write and read some poems.
Baby Dragon Zugunruhe*
Rattle-dragons the Odonates the tooth-babies so carnal as larva so carnival
as fliers the darners the meadowhawks the Halloween pennants come thin
days from fat-moons from muck wriggle forth naiads as our own days grow
shorter forgotten from whence we writhe and rise the time to stir to bite a
tadpole to fly, still somehow a zugunruhe for us.
Filmmaker Emma Piper-Burket. Photo with Emma’s phone.
*prose-poem by Jack Phillips (Becoming a Naturalist, Part 58.)