Fans of dragonflies gather to count, study winged marvels

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Baskettails, clubtails, spiketails, bog haunters, shadowdragons, amberwings and cruisers. Those are the names of but a few of the nearly 150 dragonfly species that have been identified in Minnesota.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that fans of the lacy-winged insects are on the prowl for them this weekend at Tettegouche State Park on the North Shore in the park's first comprehensive effort to survey dragonflies and damselflies. The three-day survey, which began Friday, is sponsored by the Minnesota Dragonfly Society.

"Northeastern Minnesota has by far the most species in the state," Kurt Mead told the newspaper. Mead is the author of “Dragonflies of the North Woods” and a naturalist on staff at Tettegouche. "We have 97 species in Lake County alone.

Formal efforts to keep track of the species in Minnesota started in 2006. Since then, 24 new species have been added to the state list. Mead would like to establish a dragonfly list for state parks similar to the lists that exist for birds.

In a story published last month, the Star Tribune noted that interest in the dragonfly is growing, with programs and field studies scheduled across the state all summer.

A Minnesota Dragonfly Society Facebook page has more than 530 followers; some of them post dragonfly sightings from various places in Minnesota.

Dragonflies are among the planet’s oldest insects; fossils from 250 million years ago have been discovered. Some of those prehistoric insect ancestors had a wingspread of 30 inches and a body stretching to 18 inches. Some modern dragonflies, such as meadowhawks and black saddlebags, gather in the fall like birds and migrate thousands of miles to the Gulf of Mexico.

Dragonflies are the fastest insects, hitting top speeds of more than 30 mph. Most dragonflies live for a few days; some up to five weeks.

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