Some people look at big things, and other people look at very small things, but in a sense, we’re all trying to understand the world around us.
Yesterday we hiked over to Morgan Creek at work to prepare for some upcoming trips with summer campers where we will sample the stream for macro-invertebrates. I am pleasantly surprised at the diversity of critters that still exist in this Piedmont stream.
The male is a particularly dark damselfly with only thin blue rings along most of the abdomen. This is characteristic of the Dusky Dancer, Argia translata. This is a widespread species inhabiting streams, rivers, and large lakes from Ontario to Argentina. They are found throughout much of the Piedmont and Mountains of North Carolina, but are generally not considered abundant in any location. I wanted to get some better images, so I kept stalking the pair, and laying down on the gravel bar to try to get a low angle image.
After several unsuccessful attempts, they finally stayed put long enough for a couple of shots. This morning, I looked them up in my field guides to confirm their identifiction, and as I was zooming in to see diagnostic features of the abdomen, I discovered something I had not noticed in the field…
…a tiny hitchhiker on the abdomen of the male. In most of the photos, the critter had been camera shy and mostly hidden on the back side. But in this last set, it was visible and I tentatively identified it as a potential parasitic wasp. In searching the web, I found that there are a few species of parasitic wasps (most in the genus, Hydrophylita) that are egg parasitoids on damselflies. If this is one of them, when the damselfly lays her eggs underwater, the wasps crawls down the abdomen, into the water, and lays eggs within the eggs of the damselfly. The wasp larvae then hatch and consume the eggs of the host. Whoa, the more I learn, the stranger it all becomes!