A gathering of dragonflies

Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO


June 22, 2012



A group of crows is called a ‘murder.’ A group of lions is called a ‘pride.’  Is there a word used to describe a gathering of dragonflies? 


On our morning walk Poppy and I observed a cluster of several hundred dragonflies flying about in a cluster 20 to 30 feet above the ground. 


I have never noticed this phenomenon before and certainly would not expect to see such an occurrence in urban Park Hill; perhaps in some swampy wetland, not on the corner of Montview and Ash Streets.  Chalk it off to one peculiar season.


This has been the most peculiar of seasons. 

Winter faded away halfway through February and Denver had none of our expected March snow.  The radio announced a few weeks back that our mountains had only 2% of the 30-year average snowpack.  Our Catalpa tree that typically flowers for the Summer Equinox had shed all it’s flowers by Memorial Day.  We have already baked 4 cherry pies from a tree that typically does not bare fruit until July fourth.   To say it is an unusual year is an understatement of the first degree. Already, before the summer fire season officially arrived, we’ve watched the third largest fire in Colorado history burn out of control for days west of Fort Collins.


Our seasons it seems have lost their rhythm, their inner timing. 


In the current issue of Science News, Nancy Ross-Flannagan reports that the American pika, those small little fur-ballish animals that sound their high pitched whistles as you approach high alpine rock fields, are in serious trouble.  For years they have gradually moved to higher altitudes to escape the gradually increasing summer temperatures of their habitats.   They have run out of space; they cannot move any higher and as Ross-Flannagan writes:

….. in the arid, mountainous region known as the Great Basin, pikas have disappeared altogether from 40 percent of the locales where they were found in the first half of the 20th century. Apparently already at the upper limits of their ranges, they’ve run out of places to run to.” 

Our climate is changing rapidly yet it seems we hardly talk about it anymore.  Is it that our lives are so far divorced from the natural world that we no longer notice when crops ripen months off the norm?  Or winter fades to spring a month early?  Or bark beetles that never could live through a Rocky Mountain winter now survive and destroy our forests? It seems that subject of global warming has been dragged from the realm of science and become political in nature, the debate becoming taboo. 


In last the June 15th issue of New Scientist Hannah Krakauer reported that the North Carolina legislature has taken a most unusual approach to this question of global warming and climate change.   They have passed a law against it.  Apparently,  “When a state-appointed commission announced that North Carolinians could expect 39 inches of sea-level rise by 2100, the Senate responded with a bill that legally prevents the Division of Coastal Management from using the climate model that forecasts fast-rising sea levels….” 


That is an approach I would not have thought possible in educated society.  But then again we must remember that the United States has the lowest trust in scientific knowledge than any other developed country.  Actually, my recollection is that we tie with Turkey for last place.


For a while the sudden rise in the number of national disaster FEMA responded to last year was also thought to be associated with changing weather patterns.  I have not heard mention of this in the last few months.  Perhaps Congress has outlawed talk of this. 


I will stick to wondering about those dragonflies.  There really must be a word…..



Note:  This newsletter triggered a great deal of responses from our readers.  Apparently the proper term is 'swarm' though I have had various interesting terms suggested to me, such as a 'magic', or a 'dance' to name a few that stand out.  Sightings of these swarms is apparently rare and considered lucky.  There are websites devoted to dragonfly swarms and places to report sightings.  It seems that swarms typically occur in August, not the second day of summer.

Our dear friend, Dr. Julianne Forbes of Maine provided this informative link: