Capri Connection: Dragonfly swarm is welcome

Ann Hall

One of the first things remembered by so many of the residents who call Capri home are the dragon flies they encountered as the made their way down winding Capri Boulevard for the first time.

Dragonflies rest on bulrush weeds.

The two lane road is lined on either side with mangroves and marsh waters. The smell is unique when the tide is low. On some occasions, residents are said to have to make their way through a swarm of dragon flies, some of which land on their windshields.

Old timers have told newcomers many tall tales over the past 60 years about how these double winged beauties have come to Capri.

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“I heard that Collier County Mosquito Control raises dragonflies and releases them from airplanes to control mosquitos,” said Claudia Smith. This is a story that has surfaced many times over the past several decades, but has been squelched as “not true” by Adrian Salinas of the Collier Mosquito Control District. The myth has hung around so long perhaps because of the dragonflies’ nickname – “Mosquito Hawk.”

Although these beautiful biplane style insects do eat mosquitos, Collier County Mosquito Control staff say that there could never be enough of them at a single time in a single location to make a significant difference that people would notice.

There are so many amusing facts about these bi-winged creatures. According to Wikipedia, dragonflies have been around for 300 million years -- long before the Isles of Capri, or any other community was ever developed in Southwest Florida.

Dragonflies live around water and are predators of mosquitoes, flies, bees, ants, moths and butterflies. They are even said to eat one another. Their life cycle consists of three stages, two of which most people never see. They begin as an egg, and then move into a larvae stage, where they are called 'nymphs.' Nymphs are aquatic and also eat mosquito larvae as well as small fish. They will eat just about anything smaller than themselves. The nymph stage is the longest stage of the dragonflies’ life span, and it is spent in water. It can be short, but can also last up to several years, according to Their winged stage usually lasts several months. Dragonflies are not harmful to people in any of their stages.

Dragonflies have almost 360 degree eye sight, with the area just immediately behind their heads as their only blind spot. They can also fly in any direction – up, down, sideways and even hover like a helicopter. This allows them to hunt with an almost 95 percent success rate in capturing their prey in the air. Engineers have been so curious about the flight of the dragonfly that some have been inspired to dream of making robots that fly like dragonflies.

According to Smithsonian, a single dragonfly can eat 30 to hundreds of mosquitoes per day. Capriers hope that someday in the future, there will be enough dragonflies to control the mosquito population on the Isles naturally. Until such time, they are grateful to Collier County Mosquito Control when they see or hear the “Mosquito helicopter” performing its spraying of the area when the count gets too great to bear.

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