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Making The Next Generation Of Dragons
Martin Roberts, Dragonfly Correspondent
The wheel position (Large Red Damselflies)
This year’s Damselflies have been flying around for several weeks now and the true Dragonflies are just starting to appear, but before we look at them, now is a good time to consider how Dragonflies and Damselflies go about the business of mating.

Most insects mate by the male and female joining the tips of their abdomens together, a process which can last from a few seconds to several hours. But the Dragons take this process to a whole new level. The process is the same for Damselflies and Dragonflies.

Egg laying in tandem (Common Blue Damselflies)
In preparation for mating, the male transfers sperm from his primary sex organ, which is on the underside of the tip of his abdomen, to his secondary sex organ located at the other end of his long abdomen by bending it forward beneath him. Once the sperm are in place he searches for a receptive female and basically grabs her by the back of her head using the special claspers at the tip of his abdomen. This is known as the ‘tandem’ position.

Next the female bends her abdomen forwards beneath her until it reaches forward below the male, to connect the tip of her abdomen with his secondary sex organ. This strange position is known as the ‘wheel’ or ‘heart’ position, which is quite appropriate if you look at the picture of Large Red Damselflies mating.

Female laying eggs alone (Broad-bodied Chaser)
This coupling-up (copulation) can take place in flight or while resting on a plant. Once the sperm has been transferred to the female, egg-laying begins almost immediately. In some species the pair separate completely and the female flies off to lay her eggs alone, but in other species the male may retain his hold on the female’s head, releasing just her abdomen to lay eggs. By remaining in tandem during egg-laying the male can prevent the female mating with a second male before she lays the eggs of the first male’s offspring.

Also by Martin Roberts...
The Dragonfly Season Draws To A Close
Height Of The Dragonfly Season
The ‘Dragons’ Awake
Yorkshire Dragons
Most species lay their eggs carefully either on or in water plants, just below the water-line, while others, particularly the Chasers and Darters, simply scatter their eggs into the water by flicking them off the tip of the female’s abdomen.

Eggs laid early in the season will probably hatch almost immediately but eggs laid late in the season may delay hatching until the following year. In either case the larva will emerge to start the life cycle over again.

In the next article, we will finally meet the first of the true Dragons, some of the most spectacular insects on Earth.

If this article has given you an interest in Dragonflies and Damselflies, please visit the website of the Yorkshire Dragonfly Group (www.yorkshiredragonflies.org.uk). There you will find loads of information and pictures to help you identify what you see. The Yorkshire Dragonfly Group organises a number of field trips during the Summer, and anyone with an interest in these fascinating insects is welcome to join.

Making The Next Generation Of Dragons, 18th May 2019, 7:48 AM