Thursday, October 13, 2011

Save the Dragonflies!

I love dragonflies. Despite their delicate appearance, dragonflies are the perfect hunting machines. More than 80% of their brain is used for processing visual information. It is believed that some species can see objects up to 30 feet away and detect movement as far as 60 feet away. And those big compound bug-eyes of theirs allow them to see in almost every direction at once.

Dragonflies also have more body mass dedicated to flying than any other insect. They can take off backwards, launch vertically, hover for more than a minute and fly at speeds estimated at 25-35 mph. Many of their flying talents are the result of the fact that they can control the movement of each of their four wings independently. They are such amazing fliers that both the U.S.military and NASA have studied them in hopes of developing aircraft with similar abilities.

And how do dragonflies direct these tremendous talents? They lay havoc to the bugs that bug us the most. Dragonflies consume 10 -15 % of their own weight per day dining on favorites such as mosquitoes, termites, deerflies, blackflies, horseflies, and midges.

Most of this dining is done mid-flight, as dragonflies use their mouths to scoop insects directly out of the air. When dragonflies are hunting in this way you may see them flying back and forth, back and forth, tracing the same path again and again in search of food.  Some scientists believe that dragonflies remember areas that are rich in prey and return to them repeatedly. Catching their prey in flight is called “hawking”, and there is really no more welcome sight than an army of hungry dragonflies “hawking” a swarm of termites which is emerging from a landscape. Dragonflies also “glean” their prey, which involves using their long legs or mouths to grab insects which are perched on plant stems or leaves. When they “glean” they eat plant pests up to the size of grasshoppers.

You can help Save the Dragonflies by participating in WSSC's volunteer day on Sunday, October 16th from 9 – 11:00 a.m at  Brown’s Bridge Recreation Area, 2220 Ednor Rd., Silver Spring.

Volunteers will be picking up trash in WSSC’s Brown’s Bridge Recreation Area, noted for its large number of dragonflies and damselflies. Brown’s Bridge is the best place on the Patuxent River to see these colorful insects, which help the environment by feeding on mosquitoes, flies and other small insects. Trash and weeds are threatening this special spot, so cleaning their habitat will help the damselflies and dragonflies to thrive.

WSSC is providing gloves for this project. You provide the helping hands.  Note to high school students: This events are approved for service-learning hours.

If you miss this volunteet opportunity, you might enjoy their next one…planting azaleas!

Plant Azaleas: Saturday, October 22, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Brighton Dam Azalea Garden, 2 Brighton Dam Rd., Brookeville

WSSC, with help from a troop of Girl Scouts and other volunteers, will plant more than 150 evergreen and deciduous azaleas at its Brighton Dam Azalea Garden. The azaleas to be planted include yellow, orange, purple, red and salmon-colored blossoms. These will join the pink, white and fuchsia flowers already in the garden. Currently the five-acre garden’s plants bloom for approximately one month in April through May. But the season will be extended into mid-June once the new variety of plants takes root, which normally takes about a year.

 WSSC is providing gloves and other materials for both events. You provide the helping hands.  Note to high school students: These events are approved for service-learning hours.

 For more information, contact Kim Knox at (301) 206-8233 or

2011 Farm Color Tour - Oct 15th & 16th

Don't you just love the fall? I know I do. I can remember, when I was a child, riding out to country farms with my family to buy our Halloween pumpkins. It was just the perfect thing to do on a Fall day.

The Loudoun County Farm Color Tour held on October 15th and 16th allows you to share that same kind of simple country pleasure with your family as you take a self-guided tour of 24 farms in Loudon's countryside. It also gives you the opportunity to visit and support local organic farmers and growers, such as Ayrshire Farm.

Ayrshire Farm, located in Upperville, Virginia, was the first Virginia farm to be certified both organic and humane. The farm produces a variety of meats and organic produce supplied to top regional restaurants.

“October is traditionally the month when farm communities come together to celebrate the harvest. This is a great opportunity to show what we are doing right here in Loudoun with certified organic, certified humane, local agriculture and our work for the preservation of traditional-breed livestock,” stated Sandy Lerner, owner of Ayrshire Farm. “We at Ayrshire Farm have been working for more than a decade to bring our farm and our community together in support of our local, family farms and to provide this community with more wholesome food, reduced food miles, and make our shared environment a healthier place to live and grow."

Each farm has special activities scheduled for the Farm Tour including visits with animals, hayrides, artwork and gourmet foods, honey production demonstrations and much, much more.

Come hungry and spend the day!

For more information about the Loudon County Farm Color Tour, visit their website.

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