Sunday, March 10, 2013

The scarlet darter

 The scarlet darter can be seen from early spring to late autumn often near water but sometimes even in very dry areas a considerable distance away from any aquatic habitat. It is very common in Malta as well as in many of the places where it occurs in central and southern Europe as well as in many parts of Asia and Africa.

The scarlet darter belongs to the genus Crocothemis. Members of this genus are usually small to medium sized dragonflies. They are found in southern Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Southwest Pacific.

The males are usually brightly coloured and very noticeable. Females tend to be dull brown or orange.

Because of their bright colours and peculiar behaviour dragonflies attract a lot of attention and are the subject of many folk tales and legends. 

A couple of weeks ago in an article about another species of dragonfly I wrote about the association between the dragonfly, the devil and hell. In Swedish folklore the devil is said to use dragonflies to weigh people’s souls and that trolls use dragonflies as spindles when weaving their clothes. Trolls have another use for dragonflies – they send them out to poke out the eyes of their enemies. In neighbouring Norway and in Portugal dragonflies are also associated with eyes being known as ‘eye poker’ in Norway and ‘eye snatcher’ in Portugal

In other parts of the world including Wales and the Southern United States they were associated with snakes. On the other hand in East Asia and among Native Americans dragonflies are regarded highly and this culture has influenced the way dragonflies nowadays are looked at in the West.

Dragonflies now feature prominently in Art Nouveau especially in jewellery designs and are used as a decorative motif on fabric and home furniture. In Europe and the United States dragonfly watching, which is being called ‘oding’ from the dragonfly’s Latin species name odonata, is becoming very popular. 

This article was published in The Times on 19 August 2009.

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