10 Close-Up Shots of Dragonflies

© Pieter Van Dokkum
© Pieter Van Dokkum

Photographer and astronomer Pieter van Dokkum had been attracted to dragonflies for several years, but it wasn't until he stumbled across a quaint pond in New England, dotted with hundreds of dragonflies, that van Dokkum decided to make a book. The photographer waded in the pond, spent nights waiting for the right shot, and even lost a few shoes. The result is the delightful Dragonflies: Magnificent Creatures of Water, Air, and Land, which showcases and celebrates the insects' inherent beauty.

The book starts with the tiny beginnings of the dragonfly, with the transformation of the nymphs. These flightless newborns go through a transformation (similar to caterpillars) that takes an entire night to complete. Van Dokkum then follows the full life of dragonflies, up until the end of dragonfly season in fall. About a third of the pictures come from that New England pond, while the others come from different parts of America and the Netherlands. 

Van Dokkum compares the dragonflies to fairies, and it’s not hard to see why. The delicate creatures exhibit amazing colors and beauty that almost seems otherworldly. Here are some select images from Dragonflies

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Stained glass wing. The Wings have a complex, rigid surface that is maintained by a network of veins. The subtle colors of this immature Black Meadowhawk are caused by sunlight reflecting off the still not quite transparent wings."

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Thermoregulation. Dragonflies regulate their body temperature by angling their bodies to maximize or minimize the area exposed to the sun. When temperatures are high around midday, perching dragonflies such as this Halloween Pennant may point their abdomen straight up, to absorb as little heat as possible ('obelisking')."

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Calico Pennant, female."

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Hide and Seek. Damselflies are light sleepers—insofar as insects sleep at all. Even when they are cold and covered in dew, they tend to move away from whatever is approaching them and hide behind the plant they are clinging to. A curious eyeball may be the only part of the damselfly that is visible to predators—and cameras!"

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Common Green Darner. This large dragonfly is perhaps the most iconic of American species. They spend a lot of time on the wing, patrolling over ponds and hunting above meadows. Some populations of Common Green Darners are migratory, flying from the southern to the northern United States and Canada in the spring, with their offspring returning south in the autumn."

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Flame Skimmer, male"

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Flame Skimmer, male."

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Female Seaside Dragonlet. Dragonflies typically require fresh water to reproduce. The Seaside Dragonlet is the only American dragonfly that breeds in salt water. It does not venture far from the coast, and may be found in salt marshes and tidal flats."

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Variable Darner, eating a butterfly."

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Damselfly nursery. Some plants are very popular with egg-laying damselflies."

For more pictures, purchase the book here. 

Plano, Texas Is Home to a Dog-Friendly Movie Theater That Serves Bottomless Wine or Whiskey

K9 Cinemas
K9 Cinemas

For dog owners in Plano, Texas, movie night with Fido no longer just means cuddling on the couch and browsing Netflix. The recently opened K9 Cinemas invites moviegoers—both human and canine—to watch classic films on the big screen. And the best part for the human members of this couple? Your $15 ticket includes bottomless wine or whiskey (or soft drinks if you're under 21).

The theater operates as a pop-up (or perhaps pup-up?) in a private event space near Custer Road and 15th Street in Plano. Snacks—both the pet and people kind—are available for $2 apiece. Dogs are limited to two per person, and just 25 human seats are sold per showing to leave room for the furry guests.

Pet owners are asked follow a few rules in order to take advantage of what the theater has to offer. Dogs must be up-to-date on all their shots, and owners can submit veterinary records online or bring a hard copy to the theater to verify their pooch's health status. Once inside, owners are responsible for taking their dog out for potty breaks and cleaning up after any accidents that happen (thankfully the floors are concrete and easy to wipe down).

While many of the movies shown are canine-themed—a recent screening of A Dog's Journey included branded bandanas with every ticket purchase—they also hold special events, like a Game of Thrones finale watch party (no word on how the puppers in attendance responded to Jon Snow finally acknowledging what a good boy Ghost is).

13 Fascinating Facts About Bees

iStock.com/florintt
iStock.com/florintt

Sure, you know that bees pollinate our crops and give us honey. But there's so much more to these buzzing insects than that.

1. Bee stings have some benefits.

A toxin in bee venom called melittin may prevent HIV. Melittin can kill HIV by poking holes into the virus's protective envelope. (Meanwhile, when melittin hitches a ride on certain nanoparticles, it will just bounce off normal cells and leave them unharmed.) Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis hope the toxin can be used in preventative gels.

Bee stings may also ease pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers at the University of Sao Paulo found that molecules in bee venom increase your body's level of glucocorticoid, an anti-inflammatory hormone.

2. Bees work harder than you do.

During chillier seasons, worker bees can live for nine months. But in the summer, they rarely last longer than six weeks—they literally work themselves to death.

3. When bees change jobs, they change their brain chemistry.

bees flying to a hive
iStock/bo1982

Bees are hardwired to do certain jobs. Scout bees, which search for new sources of food, are wired for adventure. Soldier bees, discovered in 2012, work as security guards their whole life. One percent of all middle-aged bees become undertakers—a genetic brain pattern compels them to remove dead bees from the hive. But most amazingly, regular honeybees—which perform multiple jobs in their lifetime—will change their brain chemistry before taking up a new gig.

4. Their brains defy time.

When aging bees do jobs usually reserved for younger members, their brain stops aging. In fact, their brain ages in reverse. (Imagine if riding a tricycle didn't just make you feel young—it actually made your brain tick like a younger person's.) Scientists at Arizona State University believe the discovery can help us slow the onset of dementia.

5. Bees are changing medicine.

To reinforce their hives, bees use a resin from poplar and evergreen trees called propolis. It's basically beehive glue. Although bees use it as caulk, humans use it to fight off bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Research shows that propolis taken from a beehive may relieve cold sores, canker sores, herpes, sore throat, cavities, and even eczema.

6. Bees can recognize human faces.

Honeybees make out faces the same way we do. They take parts—like eyebrows, lips, and ears—and cobble them together to make out the whole face. It’s called "configural processing," and it might help computer scientists improve face recognition technology, The New York Times reports.

7. Bees have personalities

Even in beehives, there are workers and shirkers. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that not all bees are interchangeable drones. Some bees are thrill-seekers. Others are a bit more timid. A 2011 study even found that agitated honeybees can be pessimistic, showing that, to some extent, bees might have feelings.

8. They get buzzed from caffeine and cocaine.

bumblebee on a flower
iStock/Whiteway

Nature didn't intend for caffeine to be relegated to your morning pot of coffee. It's actually a plant defense chemical that shoos harmful insects away and lures pollinators in. Scientists at Newcastle University found that nectar laced with caffeine helps bees remember where the flower is, increasing the chances of a return visit.

While caffeine makes bees work better, cocaine turns them into big fat liars. Bees "dance" to communicate—a way of giving fellow bees directions to good food. But high honeybees exaggerate their moves and overemphasize the food's quality. They even exhibit withdrawal symptoms, helping scientists understand the nuances of addiction.

9. Bees have Viking-like navigation techniques.

Bees use the Sun as a compass. But when it's cloudy, there's a backup—they navigate by polarized light, using special photoreceptors to find the Sun's place in the sky. The Vikings may have used a similar system: On sunny days, they navigated with sundials, but on cloudy days, sunstones—chunks of calcite that act like a Polaroid filter—helped them stay on course.

10. Bees can solve hairy mathematical problems.

Pretend it's the weekend, and it's time to do errands. You have to visit six stores and they're all at six separate locations. What's the shortest distance you can travel while visiting all six? Mathematicians call this the "traveling salesman problem," and it can even stump some computers. But for bumblebees, it's a snap. Researchers at Royal Holloway University in London found that bumblebees fly the shortest route possible between flowers. So far, they're the only animals known to solve the problem.

11. Bees are nature's most economical builders.

In 36 BCE, Marcus Terentius Varro argued that honeycombs were the most practical structures around. Centuries later, Greek mathematician Pappus solidified the "honeycomb conjecture" by making the same claim. Almost 2000 years later, American mathematician Thomas Hales wrote a mathematical proof showing that, of all the possible structures, honeycombs use the least amount of wax. And not only are honeycombs the most efficient structures in nature—the walls meet at a precise 120-degree angle, a perfect hexagon.

12. Bees can help us catch serial killers.

Serial killers behave like bees. They commit their crimes close to home, but far enough away that the neighbors don't get suspicious. Similarly, bees collect pollen near their hive, but far enough that predators can't find the hive. To understand how this "buffer zone" works, scientists studied bee behavior and wrote up a few algorithms. Their findings improved computer models police use to find felons.

13. Bees are job creators.

beekeeper working with bees
iStock/Milan_Jovic

The average American consumes roughly 1.51 pounds of honey each year. On top of that, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that honeybees pollinate up to 80 percent of the country's insect crops—meaning bees pollinate over $15 billion worth of crops each year.

This article was updated and republished in 2019.

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