The Rainbow Connection

Rainbow Bluet

Rainbow Bluet

Mid-June means the emergence of some of my favourite bugs, including the most colourful of all the damselflies, the Rainbow Bluet. After hearing that a friend of mine had spotted some along the river at Hurdman Park I went there on June 17th to look for myself. It was a hot, gorgeous day with a bit of a breeze, and I had no objection to spending my lunch hour along the bank of the Rideau River. As soon as I arrived I spotted a couple of large dragonflies patrolling the river; at least one Common Green Darner was present, as usual, but the Prince Baskettail was a bit of a surprise. It, too, was flying up and down the river, only a foot above the water. However, it was flying a little further out than the Common Green Darner, which often came in close to investigate the vegetation along the shore. Occasionally the Prince and the Darner crossed paths with each other, and a battle would ensue which ended up with them trying to chase each other off at high speeds. It is at times like this when I realize that the dragonflies are not just insects, they are also animals, and behave just as any other animal would when a competitor enters its territory.

I didn’t see any Rainbow Bluets near the large rock in the grass, so I made my way along the water’s edge to a small opening about ten or twelve feet away. The usual Eastern Forktails, Powdered Dancers and Stream Bluets were present; then I saw a small damselfly with a yellowish face and thorax and realized I had found my quarry. It was a female, as evidenced by the lack of an entirely blue final segment.

Rainbow Bluet (female)

Rainbow Bluet (female)

A female Eastern Forktail landed close by, and I couldn’t resist taking her photograph as well.

Eastern Forktail (female)

Eastern Forktail (female)

Then I started seeing more and more Rainbow Bluets flying lazily among the tall vegetation of the riverbank. All of them appeared to be males, with bright orange eyes, yellow legs, and blue-tipped abdomens. I had a ton of fun trying to photograph them before another male came along and chased them off. This one had a couple of mites on the underside of its abdomen, a sight common in both dragonflies and damselflies. A couple of parasitic mites will not adversely affect a dragonfly or damselfly; however in large numbers they can drain enough body fluids from the odonate to weaken it.

Rainbow Bluet

Rainbow Bluet

This one spent a few moments cleaning its eyes.

Rainbow Bluet

Rainbow Bluet

I also found a couple of Stream Bluets mating.

Stream Bluets mating

Stream Bluets mating

I returned again later in the week to spend some more time with the colourful damselflies of Hurdman. This time the wind was stronger, making photography difficult. I managed to capture this one feeding on a tiny moth…

Rainbow Bluet feeding

Rainbow Bluet feeding

…and another one trying to avoid being blown about by perching on this thick blade.

Rainbow Bluet

Rainbow Bluet

There seemed to be more Least Skippers present on my second outing. These small black and orange butterflies can be differentiated by the numerous European Skippers by the thick black border on the hindwing.

Least Skipper

Least Skipper

Odonate populations are constantly changing, and some species that seem well-established one year may be gone the next. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen any Springtime Darners at Hurdman, for example, but it’s nice to know that the Rainbow Bluet population is doing just fine.

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