Common Pondhawks / by Greg Westrich

I sat in a lawn chair inside the screen door. Outside a swarm of black flies did their best to get into the visitors center and suck my blood. It was a warm morning, but still cool where I sat. I felt guilty for being inside rather than outside gazing up at Borestone's west summit or looking for newts in Sunrise Pond.

An insect slowly crawled under the screen door toward me. It was dirty brown and about the size of a quarter. It moved unnaturally slowly, like it was unfamiliar with the world. Like it was a zombie bug. On its back were two bumps where its wings should have been. I carefully picked it up on a piece of paper and set it on the grass outside the door.

An hour later, I found it halfway up the side of the building. Its back had split and a huge head with green eyes had emerged. It was a dragonfly metamorphosing from larva to imago. Over the next several hours it worked its way out of larval exoskeleton, curling back on itself. It was an extremely slow process and looked painful.

Along the edge of the pond, other dragonfly larvae waited. They seemed unsure about leaving the water. Occasionally, one would poke its head out of the water only to slip back beneath the surface. More and more larvae collected on the rippled shale next to the dock in an inch of water.

By mid-afternoon, the original larva's wings had opened. It hung on the wall, drying them in the sun. The wings sparkled like mica. It flew clumsily from the wall and crash-landed in the grass. Other fresh dragonflies hung on bushes or lay in the grass. Soon they would be darting back and forth catching mosquitoes and black flies.

The next morning the dock was covered with empty shells. Hundreds of them. Somehow, all the dragonfly larvae got the message to molt at the same time. Several newly emerged dragonflies hung on the dock. Their wings were closed like those of a damsel fly. Once fully inflated, they would open--never to close again.

The dragonflies were Common Pondhawks. I wish them luck feeding on the black flies and mosquitoes, so there'll be fewer around to feed on me.