Dragonflies

The 2nd Saturday in June is New York State Dragonfly Day!

Hold an Event!

Dragonflies are said to be a “sentinel” species; their presence provides insights into the health and pollution levels of wetland areas. Just as canaries were used in mines to determine levels of harmful gases for miners, the presence (or absence) of dragonflies can give us clues about how degraded our ecosystems are and whether harmful chemicals or pesticides are present[1][2].

 

Dragonflies, similar to mosquitoes, lay their eggs in standing water. The resulting larvae (or nymph) can live underwater for up to six years, depending on the species. Dragonfly nymphs have voracious appetites and mosquito larvae are an important part of their diet – they can eat the equivalent of their body weight in food in about thirty minutes. Moreover, according to recent studies[3], mosquito larvae actually stop developing when in the vicinity of dragonfly larvae.  Another interesting fact is that dragonfly nymph molt up to fifteen times before reaching the adult stage, and this is why methoprene and other pesticides are so deadly to them.

More than fifty years ago, Rachel Carson was the first scientist to recognize the significance of sentinel species. Carson was a profound writer and cutting edge scientist; her work launched the environmentalist movement. By exposing how chemical corporations were using propaganda and scare-mongering tactics to sell chemicals, Carson became the target of attacks that sought to demean the science and her character. Sound familiar? Rachel Carson said, “the ‘control of nature’ is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology.” Rachel’s book Silent Spring exposed how chemical pollutants impact ecosystems, threatening species with extinction and impacting human health.

 

This is what she wrote about pesticides for disease control:

"No responsible person contends that insect-borne disease should be ignored. The question that has now urgently presented itself is whether it is either wise or responsible to attack the problem by methods that are rapidly making it worse. The world has heard much of the triumphant war against disease through the control of insect vectors of infection, but it has heard little of the other side of the story – the defeats, the short-lived triumphs that now strongly support the alarming view that the insect enemy has been made actually stronger by our efforts. Even worse, we may have destroyed our very means of fighting."

 

Today, as Carson predicted, we live in an environment with far less habitat and as a result fewer predators and increasingly weakened coastlines. Additionally, we are in the throes of climate change. To meet future challenges, we need a revised and science-based approach to develop radical habitat restoration programs that will protect our coastlines and wetlands, which serve as buffer zones between us and sea level-rise.

Photo Credit: Rachel Carson

Support legislation for an official day that New York State celebrates wetlands:

An annual “Dragonfly Day” on the 2nd Saturday of June. Set this day aside to enjoy group hikes, participate in citizen science studies by spotting dragonflies and exploring local wetlands and learn about what you can do to help increase biodiversity so we can check mosquito populations using predators- not deadly chemicals. 

Find out more about Nature-Based Solutions for healthier environments HERE

Visit our Dragonfly Day website: Dragonfly Day NYS dragonflyday.org

NYS Dragonfly Day Resolution

Proposal: NYS Dragonfly Day

References:

 

[1] Cairn N, Portland Press Herald (2013), 'Dragonfly in mud a canary in coal mine for our times'[online]. Available at: http://www.centralmaine.com/2013/09/07/dragonfly-in-mud-a-canary-in-coal-mine-for-our-times/

[2] Simon M., (2012) 'Dragonflies - Indicator Species of Environmental Health' [online], Available at: http://www.earthtimes.org/nature/dragonflies-indicator-species-environmental-health/2033/

[3] Ellis M., (2013) 'Influence of Dragonfly Larvae on Mosquito Development and Survival' [online]. Available at: http://www.caryinstitute.org/publications/influence-dragonfly-larvae-mosquito-development-and-survival

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