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There's a killer in the cemetery!

On a walk around our village a couple of days ago, I encountered this beautiful Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii), sheltering from the wind near a hedge in the cemetery. These dragonflies spend the majority of their lives (5+ years) as predatory aquatic larvae, emerging as flying adults for a few weeks of breeding before they die. The adults are also predators and primarily use sight, rather than other senses, to locate their prey. This explains the contrast between their inconspicuous, bristle-like antennae (barely visible in this photo) and their enormous compound eyes, so large that they meet on the top of the head. Like all insects, the three segments of the thorax each bear a pair of legs, but in dragonflies these thoracic segments are tilted so that the legs are set forward, creating a basket-like arrangement that enables them to catch prey on the wing. What you are seeing in this photo is therefore a perfectly adapted aerial predator. You can find out more about dragonflies and their close relatives, the damselflies, at the British Dragonfly Society website:

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