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Bewitched by Dragonflies

Nature, Series 8 Episode 4 of 7

Duration:
28 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 25 February 2014

In 1985, a dragonfly landed on Ruary Mackenzie Dodds. Up until this time, he had never had much interest in insects, but so astonished and bewitched was he by "this beautiful" insect which had landed on his shirt, that he decided to find out more about dragonflies and in time that led to the founding of The Dragonfly Project to enthuse and educate people about dragonflies. In August 2013, Ruary 'handed over the baton' of the Dragonfly Project to The British Dragonfly Society who will continue this work alongside their own work to conserve dragonflies and their wetland habitats, but Ruary's eagerness to share his enthusiasm for these insects continues "I don't know what it is about dragonflies ... they absolutely electrify me ... I get so excited when I see them in the air". In this programme, Ruary searches for dragonflies and their larvae amongst the reeds and watery places of Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire and offers a fascinating insight into their lives. He's not disappointed there are common and ruddy darters, as well as brown and migrant hawkers darting, dashing and hovering over the reeds, or ovipositing their eggs in the water. Robin Wootton describes their extraordinary versatility; "They really have all the capabilities of a helicopter but they do it much quicker" and Milly Sharkey reveals how these insects can see colour and polarised light, even underwater in the larval stage; an advantage in a murky pond. Dragonflies can be traced back in the fossil record over 300 million years, and yet we still have much to learn about these 'Horse Stingers' and 'Devils Darning Needles' as they were once called, being falsely believed to sting or bite, when instead they are quite harmless. Just 'like a little piece of flying crystal' says Ruary.
Producer Sarah Blunt.

  • Wicken Fen

    Wicken Fen - a good pond for Dragonflies
    Wicken Fen - a good pond for Dragonflies
  • Ruary Mackenzie Dodds

    Ruary Mackenzie Dodds preparing to do a bit of pond dipping for dragonlfy larvae
    Ruary Mackenzie Dodds preparing to do a bit of pond dipping for dragonfly larvae.

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