The summer day is warm and the wind is absent. At lakes and other bodies of still water, dragonflies dart here and there, almost too fast to follow with your eyes. They are the messengers of summer, and they can be dazzling with their intricate beauty.
Now is the best time to spot dragonflies. They have emerged from the aquatic portion of their lives, when they were brown nymphs. The nymphs climb up on a leaf, where a complete metamorphosis occurs. Their exoskeletons crack open, and fully developed dragonflies emerge, their iridescent colors brilliant in the sun’s rays.
This second stage of dragonflies’ lives is short, just several weeks to two months depending on the species. Sonoma County, rich with lakes and rivers, is the perfect environment to spot them. Any place that has calm waters is a good bet. (Dragonfly expert Kathy Biggs recommends several promising locales; see her Where to Find Them list below.) Dragonflies and their close cousins, damselflies, are mating now, in midsummer, and most mate in the air. The female will then lay her eggs on a plant in the water, though some species lay theirs in the water directly.
If you spend some time watching them, you’ll be amazed by their flying ability. It helps to have four wings that can operate independently of each other; they can fly up, down, sideways, backwards, and even hover like a helicopter. Dragonflies need to be excellent fliers, as they eat by capturing insects in the air. They can eat hundreds of mosquitoes a day.
Over 30 species of dragonflies can be seen in Sonoma. Look for the bright orange Flame Skimmer, the turquoise Blue Dasher, or the aptly named Eight-spotted Skimmer.
Where to Find Them
Riverfront Regional Park, 7821 Eastside Road, Healdsburg
Spring Lake Regional Park, 393 Violetti Road, Santa Rosa
Lake Ralphine at Howarth Park, 630 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa
Tolay Lake Regional Park, 5869 Cannon Lane, Petaluma
Pepperwood Preserve, 2130 Pepperwood Preserve Road, Santa Rosa
Bullfrog Pond in Armstrong Woods, 17000 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville