by Kurt Mead, Naturalist at Tettegouche State Park
I have had the great pleasure of teaching Camp Finland kids about dragonflies and damselflies for the last three summers. Unfortunately, it’s usually been cold and rainy and we don’t find many dragonflies to chase. This summer, although windy, it was warm and sunny and the kids got to chase lots of fast-flying insects.
I had an idea of what dragonflies that we would likely see. Lake County has a list of known dragonflies and damselflies that runs close to 100 species. Many of these are pretty common and are species that I would expect to find around here, but some of them are pretty uncommon, ranging to quite rare.
The kids found a lot of dragonflies, this year, and what blew my mind is that they were mostly finding the species that I have on my uncommon to rare list! The dominant damselfly that the campers were catching was a species that has only been found one other time in Lake County. For a while it seemed that every other kid who had caught something had captured one of the “rare” Aurora Damsels.
Another really exciting dragonfly they found was the Ski-tailed Emerald. The last time that this species had been reported in Lake County was in 1920! It’s a species that I have expected to run across in our area, but it has so far eluded me.
Reports of these finds will be included in a national database, a few specimens will be donated to the University of Minnesota Insect Collection in St. Paul, and both will add important information about these species in Minnesota. Although it looked like fun and games, Camp Finland kids did real science!
More uncommon/rare species:
The rest of our list:
Common Green Darner
Kurt Mead is a naturalist at Tettegouche State Park, before that working at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center near Finland, Minnesota. He has also worked in a pea canning factory, as a garbage man, an animal control officer, an urban wildlife trapper, an aquaculturalist, a security guard, an acid rain monitor, a waiter, a delivery driver, an elected township supervisor, DNR Fisheries creel surveyor, a log home builder and carpenter in Sweden, and the founder and coordinator for the Minnesota Odonata Survey Project. His scavenging habits lead his wife to believe that he is a reincarnated Turkey Vulture. He has a B.S. in biology and a BFA in art, both from the University of Minnesota Duluth. Kurt regularly gives talks and workshops on dragonfly identification and ecology. Although he has chased dragonflies in Canada and various places in Europe, he is blessed to make his home in the North Woods near Finland, Minnesota. Kurt lives on a little homestead with his patient wife Betsey and his two lovely daughters, Yarrow and Lily, but they recently spent a year living and working in Sweden. His book, Dragonflies of the North Woods, can be purchased on the Minnesota Dragonfly Society’s website.