During a rare break in the rain, wind & gloom of the 2012 edition of a summer in Cornwall I popped down to Windmill Farm and found the dragonflies & damselflies well & truely making hay while the sun shone. The numbers involved were not as great as normal for the time of year, but by 2012 standards they were bouncing!
Sadly, although a welcome dose of sunshine was good news for both the insect & human strands of the web of life there was also a darker side to the day.
Walking around the margins of the northern dragonfly scrapes shortly after midday I was surprised to see what I initially thought was a female Emperor Dragonfly - Anax imperator that had almost completed her emergence from larva to adult. However I quickly realised that the poor thing was stuck with it's head still in the exuvia, (the cast skin of the larva), and I assumed it was dead.
The abdomen, thorax & wings were all pumped up to full size and were as they should be, however the legs & head were stuck in the exuvia and all the adult's body had hardened in place. So the head was the same shape as the larva's with those beautiful eyes stranded inside, never seeing the light of day & unable to see as it bore it's former skin like some sort of hideous hat. The neck had become so stretched in it's efforts to pull free that it would never have had the balance to fly anyway, even if it could support it's head. And then I realised that far from being dead, the poor thing was alive.
Reluctantly I decided to put this unfortunate Empress out of her misery, not something I take lightly after a lifetime of admiring these stunning insects.