Winging it

A damselfly's adult life is so short that a newly hatched female must mate and lay her eggs in the same day that she hatches. Her success will depend on her fragile wings. Few insects can escape from a spider's web, but her wings are more powerful than they look and the female manages to pull free and avoid a sticky end. Over the stream, dark-winged males compete with each other for the best territories. The female watches and waits for a chance to mate with the victor. Once mating is over, she must find the best location to lay her eggs. She warms her muscles up, before taking off and flying low over the stream, a dangerous strategy when there are insect-loving frogs lurking under the surface. But she needs to lay her eggs underwater for them to survive so has to dice with death. Then, for the first time, her wings become a hindrance as they become waterlogged. But in fact they help her in an unexpected way. She traps a bubble of air underneath them so she's able to dive underwater, and stay under long enough to cut a hole in a stem and lay her eggs. Then, she has to get out of the water fast before she drowns, and once again her wings look like they'll spell her death sentence. She has to use every bit of her strength to pull her wet wings free of the surface tension and only the strongest of females will survive this final test.

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5 minutes

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