Wanting life, given death

sundew and common blue damselflyThis week’s Behind the Picture was taken a few miles from my home in Dorset. I love the idea of nature being turned on its head and was intrigued by the UK’s population of carnivorous plants. They are the sort of thing you expect to find in the tropics, but each summer Drosera rotundifolia, known to us as either the common or round leafed sundew rises from the bogs of lowland heaths.

They are beautiful plants, but what makes them fascinating is their ability to destroy beauty as well. Their leaves are covered in tiny nodules of a sticky substance which clings strongly to any hapless insect which lands of it. Dragonflys and damselflys are always looking for a perch to land on and some like this Enallagma cyathigerum or common blue damselfly are quite often caught out.

I found this individual just after he’d (I know it’s a him because he is blue, the females are a yellowish colour) inadvertently landed on a tall sundew plant. He was struggling to get away, but to no avail. He’d fought so hard that the sticky nodules had been shaken off, but the plant had its prey and wasn’t letting go. The damselfly was going to die and then be dissolved by the plant. But, and this is the reason why I think it is a powerful image, the damselfly is born with a permanent smile on its face. It looks like its happy and the vibrant colours create a sense of happiness until you realise what is actually going on. They say nature can be cruel, but she can also put on a hell of a show while she is doing it.

To get a low angle I had to sink my camera down into the damp spongy ground and I used a macro lens and a Zigview view to see the image without having to lay down on the wet earth.

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