175 pages, 172 colour photos, b/w illustrations
Almost without our noticing, dragonflies dart through our world, flying, seeing, hunting, mating. Their lives are as mysterious as their gossamer wings are beautiful. In Dragonflies: Magnificent Creatures of Water, Air and Land Pieter van Dokkum reveals many of the dragonfly's secrets, capturing the stages of this striking insect's life cycle in unprecedented close-up photographs. He documents scenes of dragonfly activity seldom witnessed and rarely photographed.
Dragonflies: Magnificent Creatures of Water, Air and Land begins on a moonlit summer night, when an alien-looking larva crawls out of the water and transforms into a fully formed dragonfly. In the following chapters we witness dew-covered dragonflies sparkling in the morning sun, then a pair of mating dragonflies moving through the air in a twelve-legged, eight-winged dance. In the final chapter, one generation dies as the next prepares to leave the water and begin its own winged journey. Each stage is documented through van Dokkum's inquisitive lens and accompanied by information on various species of dragonflies and damselflies, their metamorphosis, and their ecological importance as insect predators.
"As a coffee table book, Dragonflies is the first of its kind. It successfully brings dragonfly biology to the large numbers of people currently interested in these insects primarily for artistic or spiritual reasons."
– Pamela Hunt, Audubon Society of New Hampshire
"After experiencing dragonflies' lives – from benignly smiling, ravenous nymphs to stunt-flying adults to raggedy corpses – through Pieter van Dokkum's eyes, you'll never see them the same way again."
– Leslie Brunetta, co-author of Spider Silk: Evolution and 400 Million Years of Spinning, Waiting, Snagging, and Mating
"These exquisite photographs literally fly off the page and reinforce the maxim that a picture really is worth a thousand words."
– Aaron M. Ellison, author of A Field Guide to the Ants of New England
"Pieter van Dokkum has created a lovely book about dragon- and damselflies suitable for any newcomer to dragonfly watching who is interested in learning all the basics of odonate biology and ecology."
– Maria Aliberti Lubertazzi, science faculty at Rhode Island School of Design
"Van Dokkum's vivid compilation of photographs is a treat for nature lovers. The accompanying text is poetically written and a fascinating introduction to the distinct characteristics of these creatures."
– Library Journal, starred review
"This book reveals the beautiful variety of meadowhawks, pondhawks, skimmers, darners, and other types of dragonflies."
Preface: The Secret Pond 10
1. Beginnings 12
2. An Excellent Design 30
3. Dew-clad Dragons 50
4. Masters of Flight 62
5. Portraits 76
6. Hunters 110
7. The Next Generation 120
8. Endings, New Beginnings 150
Suggested Readings 171
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Pieter van Dokkum is Sol Goldman Family Professor of Astronomy and chair of the Astronomy Department at Yale University. He is a regular user of the world's most powerful telescopes, and his astronomical images have been widely published. He is also an expert in insect photography, with a focus on dragonflies. He lives in New Haven, CT.