Thoughts on a Bio-blitz and More

Collaboration in the Reeds

Using his insect net and 30 years of experience as an entomologist, Mark O’Brien swiftly caught a dragonfly with thick black and white bands on its wings. He identified it as a Widow Skimmer while standing there in hiking boots, khaki pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a pocketed vest. Compared to the seven students helping him collect dragonflies in the native reeds, he stood out like a sore thumb. The students, wearing shorts and walking barefoot in the silt sediment of Douglas Lake, wandered away from Mark to try and capture one of the dragonflies nearby.

Standing still in ankle deep water, the students observed the flight behavior of a red dragonfly. Its arbitrary patterns of flight befuddled them. Mark watched in amusement as they swung wildly at the dragonfly with their collecting nets. “That’s a Calico Pennant,” he said. “None have been caught during the surveying yet.” This fact motivated them to try even harder. The hurried motions of the collecting nets were no match for the dragonfly’s virtually 360-degree field of vision.

In flight, the dragonfly appeared only as a red haze. When it stopped to rest on the tip of a bulrush reed, the wing pattern of the Calico Pennant became visible. Like an ornate piece of stained glass, the detail of the wings contrasted sharply with the bold flames of reddish-orange on the abdomen.

One student tried to catch the perched dragonfly, but with unlimited space in the sky, the Calico was anything but cornered. It flew around like a loop stunt plane while the students gathered their wits. As it whizzed past them, the students chopped at the Calico with their nets. Attacked from all sides, the dragonfly collided with the path of open mesh. Brains triumphed over brawn – it took only seven of the world’s smartest species to bring down the world’s fastest insect.

By Janee Kronk

Article Comments

  • Anonymous

    What a treat to know the Biological Station is still alive and well. My father, David S. Shetter, B.S. Biology 1932, M.S. 1933, Ph.D. Zoology, 1937, enjoyed many summers there and until recently we had a scrapbook showing the activities and the friends he met there. Unfortunately, the storage space in Florida retirement homes dictates that some things have to be cleaned out. Wish I had known where to send it. This was definitely a seminal experience for a city guy from Cleveland. He loved everthing and had a hard time deciding what to do for his advanced degrees – ichthyology, entymology or herpetology.

    Dad subsequently went on to become the director of the Hunt Creek Fisheries Experiment Station in Lewiston from 1943 until his death in 1969. This is now under DNR management. My brother and I grew up at the “Lab”. A wonderful place to learn about the out of doors – many students and scholars coming and going. All summer there were folks camped out on the property observing or collecting. We learned VERY early not to disturb anyone or anything in jars, nets or collecting trays.

    There were no data bases established for many things we take for granted today. Hunt Creek has one of the longest data bases in existence for a freshwater trout stream. I certainly hope the current budget crises does not put that in jeopardy.

    Call Andy Nuhfer, the current director and have him show you the scrapbook I did on the history of Hunt Creek last year. I think you could do a good article on that and what the Lovells Historical Society is doing for the fishing lodges on the North Branch and the Main Stream. All of this was tied together in the beginning.

    Keep up the good work!


    Alice Shetter Hoelzer-Hawthorne
    3808 Doune Way
    Clermont, FL 34711