On warm sunny afternoon’s common green darners begin to appear in wetlands throughout Cleveland Metroparks. Early in the month they are likely migrants from the south spreading northward on southerly breezes. This well documented behavior is often overlooked. Later in the month the first local dragonfly nymphs begin crawling out of the water to begin their “second” life of aerial hunters of unsuspected insect prey.
July is high time to find a virtual cornucopia of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. Flashy swallowtails, sulphurs, azures, and fritillaries adorn the heads of grassland wildflowers. The airspace above wetlands, ponds and lakes is a flurry of wings with skimmers, dashers, darners, forktails, and pondhawk dragonflies and damselflies mating and catching small insect prey. By the end of July, warm evenings bring on the trilling and buzzing serenades of katydids and grasshoppers.
The fields and wetlands are alive with the buzzing and fluttering of colorful insects; August is one of the peaks for dragonfly, damselfly and butterfly diversity. Skimmers, darners, bluets, spreadwings, baskettails, saddlebags and other unique odonates are busy foraging on the wing and laying eggs in ponds and lakes. Common buckeyes, one of the most brilliant of butterflies, can be found on sunny paths through meadows. Cicadas, grasshoppers, crickets and katydids fill the afternoons, evenings, and starlit nights with loud serenades.
The insect world is still a buzz in September, as the last warm days of the year offer the opportunity to locate and appreciate stunningly colorful butterflies from the common buckeye, black swallowtail, great spangled fritillary and the flashy yellow of clouded and orange sulphurs. Katydids and grasshoppers drone on through the afternoons and evenings with buzzing serenades. Hoverer, big news in the “bug” world is the monarch migration. These large, rich orange and black butterflies make an astounding migration south to Mexico. On a warm day with north winds, visit Huntington Reservation to witness hundreds to thousands of monarchs as they depart Canada and arrive on U.S. ground.
With each passing day the insect songs heard in meadows are becoming become quieter and quieter. The crickets, grasshoppers and katydids are reaching the end of their life cycle; the first heavy frost will put an end to their songs. However, before they fall silent they have already initiated next year’s generation as eggs have been deposited and will overwinter to begin the cycle again in the spring.
Depending on daily temperatures and weather conditions you may catch a glimpse of a very late appearance of butterflies, moths, and dragonflies, and damselflies. The previously-named “autumn meadowhawk,” now known as the yellow-legged meadowhawk, is a small, ruby-red dragonfly of open fields and woodland edges. This dragonfly is capable of withstanding cold temperatures and feeds on tiny gnats, flies and other minute insects that fly during daylight hours that exceed 35 degrees. Locally there are records of yellow-legged meadowhawks actively foraging on “warmer” days through the end of November - December and into January!