When most people consider insects, they only think of them as the annoying things that buzz and bite or the unsightly smears on car windows. However, there are many opportunities in the summer months to broaden one's perspective and view these animals in a different context. Many insects live fascinating lives and cause no problems.
It's easy to appreciate the myriad butterflies that flit past us as we work in the yard or hike outdoors. However, a mud puddle is an often overlooked area to observe a gathering of butterflies. Butterflies engage in this puddling behavior to obtain nutrients that they cannot get from flower nectar.
Dragonflies may be challenging to appreciate, but they are beneficial and should not be maligned. Along with their petite relatives, the damselflies, dragonflies are voracious predators of mosquitoes and other pests. Dragonflies and damselflies can be difficult to identify, but binoculars help provide rewarding and intricate details of these beautiful animals. They are most commonly found around marshes, rivers, or ponds and spend most of their life as aquatic animals, only briefly emerging from the water as adults to fly, mate, and lay eggs.
As master fliers, dragonflies can hover in place and accelerate rapidly to catch prey or avoid becoming lunch themselves! In the heat of the day, it's common to see dragonflies obelisking on a high perch. You will recognize this behavior when a dragonfly rests with its abdomen sticking straight up in the air. Though it looks downright silly, this is of great importance because it helps dragonflies control their body temperature.
Another sorely under-appreciated insect group is the tiger beetles. These truly fascinating animals run at incredible speeds and are best appreciated with binoculars. It's been suggested that for their size, they are the fastest running land animal. More than just speed demons, these insatiable predators are some of the most beautiful insects.
A magnified view of a tiger beetle, group of puddling butterflies, or hovering dragonfly can be a rare treat for anyone open to the possibility of seeing something a bit unusual in the outdoors. So during the sunny days of summer months, why not get out there and explore the possibilities?
Photo of Splendid Tiger Beetle contributed by Mike Reese, wisconsinbutterflies.org