In the entomological world, we call that a "two-fer."
Two insects in the same photo.
Sunday morning we spotted a fiery skipper butterfly (Hylephila phyleus) on an artichoke leaf. It was warming its flight muscles, maybe to flutter over to the lavender for a sip of nectar.
Next to it--we almost missed it--was a damselfly, apparently doing the same thing. Or maybe it was waiting for an aphid or a gnat or ant to come along. They eat small, soft-bodied insects.
The skipper: a member of the family Hesperiidae, order Lepidoptera.
The damselfly: a member of the suborder Zygoptera, order Odonata.
Two entirely different orders, but both belonging to the class Insecta.
And sharing an artichoke leaf on a Sunday morning.
Blue damselflies should be on "Dancing with Stars."
Because, in many respects, they ARE the stars--the stars of the insect world.
They're slender, delicate and beautiful dancers that look like blue-stick diamonds.
Damselflies are often confused with dragonflies, which are in the same order, Odonata, but in a different suborder. Both are predators. Damselflies, however, hold their wings parallel to the body. They're usually smaller than dragonflies and don't move as fast.
But if you stalk them, they're leery. If you shadow them, these needlelike insects vanish in a flash of blue.
Fossil records show that dragonflies and damselflies lived on earth 300 million years ago. Ancient insects, indeed.
The best time to photograph damselflies is in the early morning when they're warming their flight muscles. Sometimes they'll perch motionless on a plant as if they're posing.
Poet-playwright William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) asked "How can we know the dancer from the dance?"
It's often called a "pond damselfly" or a "narrow-winged damselfly."
We spotted this brilliant blue damselfly on a Great Valley gum plant (Grindelia camporum) near the Sciences Laboratory Building at the University of California, Davis.
It's a male coenagrionid damselfly, said Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis. She knows her insects: she has seven million specimens in the Bohart (plus a few live ones in the "petting zoo").
The damselfly sparkled like a blue diamond as it foraged on the gum plant.
An entomological treasure, an Odonato gem, a sliver of blue in a thicket of green.
They're as long and thin as darning needles. And, sometimes they’re as difficult to find as a needle in the proverbial haystack.
These slender, frail-looking insects (below) are damselflies. They fly around ponds and streams and perch on plants near the shoreline. As adults, they prey on flying insects such as mosquitoes and gnats, and in turn, they're preyed upon by dragonflies, other insects, and birds. Occasionally a spider snares one in its web.
Anglers consider them good luck, especially when these brightly colored insects touch down on their fishing lines.
Like dragonflies, damselflies are members of the Odonata order. Their suborder is Zygoptera--in case anybody asks!
Retired entomologist Jerry Powell of UC Berkeley estimates California has about 40 species of damseslflies.
I saw one damselfly, probably the common bluet, checking out our backyard fish pond last weekend before perching on a tower-of -jewels leaf.
Another one was flitting about the Yolo Causeway last year while a UC Davis researcher was trapping mosquitoes.
Neither looked like a damsel in distress. In fact, they looked quite predaceous.
Especially to skeeters.