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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Do a little dance

On 4 July 2015, I mentioned that Red Saddlebags (Tramea onusta) are showing up in Northern California this year.  The weather this weekend — warm temperatures, southerly winds — created potential for more of these dragonflies to move north along the coast. 

I went out for a short time this afternoon (19 July 2015) to look for them.  I saw at least seven Red Saddlebags, and four of those were male-female pairs.  And they were ovipositing (egg-laying)!

Here's one of my better pictures of a pair in tandem (below), with the male on the left and the female on the right.  The male clasps the female's head with special appendages at the end of his abdomen.  (And in this case, the female is holding onto the male's abdomen with her legs.)

The next steps (assuming they've already mated) are really fun to watch.  When ovipositing, Red Saddlebags "do a little dance."  

The female produces a small cluster of eggs at the tip of her abdomen (the yellowish blob):

Then the male releases the female:

She drops to the water's surface to deposit the eggs (tapping the water with the tip of her abdomen), while he hovers above her:

Then he immediately clasps her again:

And they start all over:

Watching this today, I wondered how the male knows when to release the female to deposit the eggs? 

This is a special year to watch for this southern species in Northern California.  (And if you're in Oregon, you have a chance for a state record!)  While at freshwater ponds, keep your eyes open for these flying jewels.

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