Ode to Odes

odes-1-CFRubyMeadowhawk.jpgToday, Hillary of Mass Audubon shares a primer on odes:

My four year old has a completely irrational fear of bugs. One measly little ant comes into sight and you'd think we were being attacked by a swarm of bees. Full disclosure: I'm not a huge fan of bugs myself. But I feel it's my duty not to pass my crazy on to her. Plus, the more I learn about bugs at work, the less I fear them. So when I see a cool, completely harmless bug, I try to bring her around.
Take dragonflies and damselflies. Also known as Odonates (or just odes), these awesome, summertime insects are captivating to watch. They zip and zag around fields, meadows, streams, and backyards, dazzling onlookers with their aerodynamics, big bulging eyes, and bright colors. And they are about as harmless as they come. "But, mommy, they're dragons," my daughter would plead. After explaining that it's just a name and no fire-breathing is involved, I'd add that their favorite snack is another abhorred insect: the mosquito!

Now that I've got her on board, next step: identifying what kinds we are seeing. Since there are approximately 166 species of odes in Massachusetts, step one is to first learn to tell a dragonfly from a damselfly. A few pointers:


  • Typically hold their wings together when not flying
  • Are smaller and more delicate than dragonflies
  • Their eyes are farther apart and look to the sides
  • Fly a little haphazardly, like a butterfly



  • Hold their wings out in a horizontal position when not flying
  • Are large and robust
  • Their eyes are larger than in damselflies, sometimes touching each other
  • Are powerful, straight fliers


Odes can usually be spotted throughout Massachusetts all summer long, especially around pond shores. Want to know more? Pick up the handy and laminated Dragonfly and Damselfly Pocket ID Guide ($4.95) at the Audubon Shop in Lincoln, check out the Odonate section of the Mass Audubon website, or stop by a Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary and ask a naturalist.

All images courtesy of Joy Marzolf, Mass Audubon

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And a head's up: The deadline for Mass Audubon's photo contest is September 30 and we have a entry level for under 18 photographers. We're looking for great photos of nature and wildlife (and people enjoying nature and wildlife) taken in Massachusetts or at Wildwood, Mass Audubon's overnight camp. You could win a gift card to use at a Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary or shop! For details on how and what to enter, visit www.massaudubon.org/picturethis.

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