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Trust ends sale of dragonfly nymphs

      Anytime humans try to control nature, there can be unintended consequences.   Recently some biologists have raised the concern that by transporting dragonfly and damselfly nymphs from one location to another, we might interfere with local natural populations.

  • There exists the possibility that local populations of native dragonflies and damselflies could be harmed by introducing more aggressive species from other places.
  • There exists the possibility that non-native "exotic" species could be introduced.
  • Dragonflies eat more than mosquitoes and mosquito larvae.   An overpopulation of dragonflies could increase competition and harm populations of other local rare or endangered insects.
      The Francis Small Heritage Trust researched these issues and concluded that the risks of selling dragonfly nymphs outweighed the benefits.

      The Trust decided to discontinue the selling of dragonfly and damselfly nymphs after 2006.   We hope our dragonfly customers will continue to support our conservation work in other ways.

      The Trust made this decision reluctantly, because there are increasing health risks from mosquitoes and because using a natural biological enemy of mosquitoes seems greatly preferable to widespread insecticide spraying, which can have serious effects on human health as well as on other life in our environment.

      We liked selling dragonfly nymphs because it put us in touch with so many of you in the community, and it was a good fund-raising activity.   The Trust welcomes any suggestions for another activity that can achieve these results.

      And what can you do about mosquitoes?   The Maine Department of Health and Human Services website gives this advice:

  • Use insect repellent.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks when outdoors.
  • Install or repair window screens.
  • Avoid being outdoors at dawn or dusk.
  • Drain standing water.
      For more information visit on the web:   You can also find more information about Eastern Equine Encephalitis, which is a concern in our area due to the favorable habitat.

Some interesting facts about dragonflies:

      What can fly 35 MPH, hover, and even fly backwards, all while looking for tasty mosquitoes to eat?   The answer may be flying around you right now.   Each year for nine years the Trust sold dragonfly nymphs in order to promote an environmentally safe way to control insect pests as well as to raise money for the Sawyer Mountain Highlands project.   Thanks partially to these dragonfly sales, the Trust has purchased approximately 1400 acres in the Sawyer Mountain area of Limington and Limerick.   This land has been acquired for public use for such traditional activities as hiking, hunting, snowmobiling, and educational programs.

      The nymphs are either dragonflies or damselflies.   Dragonflies can fly faster and are sometimes called darning needles.   They hold their wings out horizontally when resting.   Damselflies are more slender, fly more leisurely along the banks of ponds and streams, and hold their wings vertically over their backs when resting.

      The dragonfly and damselfly nymphs live in the water eating mosquito larvae (and any other insects smaller than themselves) until they are ready to cast off their skins and emerge as adult dragonflies and damselflies.   The adult phase can last weeks or months while the fascinating insects eat adult mosquitoes and other insect pests.   They also spend this time laying eggs for the next generation.   Not only are the dragonflies and damselflies useful in insect control, they are beautiful to look at!   Both dragonflies and damselflies spend their winters in nymph form in the mud at the bottom of lakes and ponds.   Dragonflies can spend one to four years in the nymph stage while some species of damselflies can have multiple broods in a single year.

Dragonfly nymphs - Photo credit Hilary Wallis
A package of fifty nymphs.   One of these dragonflies looks big enough to shed its skin and fly away!

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