Gateway to the Classics: By Pond and River by Arabella Buckley
By Pond and River by  Arabella Buckley

The Dragon‑Fly and His Companions

E VERY country boy or girl, who wants to learn about water animals, should make a pond net. You have only to get a willow twig, and bind it into a hoop with string. Then make a muslin bag and sew a small stone in the bottom of it, and sew the mouth of the bag onto the hoop. Get a stick out of the hedge and fasten to it a long piece of string. Split the string near the end, and tie it to the two sides of the hoop. Then you have a net which you can let down and fish up animals from the bottom of the pond. You had better have a wide-mouthed bottle as well in which you can put what you catch. I know a shady pond just outside a farm yard at the turn of a lane. There on a bright sunny day the insects are often very busy.

In one corner of the pond the little whirligig beetles are swimming round and round, making circles in the water. Their shining black backs look almost green in the sun. Every now and then one jumps up to catch a fly in the air, or another dives down to eat a grub. Drop your net into the water and bring it up quickly under a beetle, and put him in the bottle so that you can see him.

You will think that he has four eyes, for each of his two eyes is divided. One half looks up into the air, and one half looks down into the water. So as he whirls about, he can see the flies in the air and the grubs in the water.

Gnats are flitting to and fro over the pond, and there is quite a crowd of those large flies with gauze wings which we call May-flies. And now a more splendid fly, three inches long, with four big gauze wings rises out of the bulrushes and flies over the pond.

All boys know the dragon-fly. His lovely wings are covered with cross-bars filled with air, and they glitter in the sunshine with red, blue, and green colours. He has a long tail and a thick body with six legs, and a round head with huge eyes.


A Dragon-fly.

Each eye has more than ten thousand tiny windows in it, so that he can see up and down, right and left, as he darts about, killing the butterflies and moths that come in his way. Then he settles down on a plant or bush by the water-side, and rests till he starts off again across the pond.

If you go often in April to a pond where dragon-flies are, you may perhaps see one begin its life in the air. This is how it happens.

Under the water a large insect crawls up the stem of a plant. He has a body as big as a dragon-fly and has six legs. But he has a curious dull look in his face, and where his wings should be there are only two short stumps.

He crawls very slowly up the stem, till he comes out of the water into the air. Then a strange thing happens. The skin of his back cracks, and out creeps a real dragon-fly.

First his head, then his body with its six legs and four soft, crumpled wings, and lastly his tail. He cannot fly yet. He stands by his old empty skin, and slowly stretches out his wings to the sun. In a few hours they are long and strong and hard. Then he is ready to fly over the pond and feed.

This is how the dragon-fly comes up to the air. You will not find him so easily under the water, but we will try next week with our net. We have seen so much at the top of the pond to-day that we have not had time to dredge in the mud below.


a.Dragon-fly grub feeding  b.Dragon-fly creeping out of grub skin.

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