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This is still prime time for many clutches of wood duck eggs to hatch. The young stay in their nest box or tree cavity the day they hatch, even if it's in the morning, and then leave the next morning.

Around 8 a.m. is a popular time for young woodies to jump. Wild turkey hens are seen with their tiny young poults. Trumpeter swan pairs can be seen swimming with their newly hatched cygnets. In northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, young common loons are out with their parents on many of the lakes.

Baby raccoons, skunks, deer, cottontail rabbits, chipmunks, and gophers wander about. Don't think of them as orphaned young. Their parents no doubt are close by hiding from you because they are more cautious.

Some other observations:

  • Garden strawberry plants have begun yielding that delicious fruit high in vitamin C. Northern catalpa and Japanese tree lilac have begun displaying their showy clusters of flowers. At the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, rose gardens and the peony collection have showy flowers. Our state floral emblem, the showy pink and white lady's-slipper, is blooming nicely.
  • Fireflies now add magic to warm-season evenings. Deer flies also are on the wing and mosquitoes have become bothersome. Black flies have become serious pests.
  • Now for some good news: We can find those speedy winged creatures of the air, dragonflies, from spring well into the fall season, but it's in mid-June that their numbers and different species are starting to peak, and they eat many of the mosquitoes, flies, and hopefully other insects that bother us outdoor enthusiasts.

While working with my summer field biology students, a number of years ago at the end of June, on the bog trail at the arboretum, a half-dozen dragonflies joined us and gobbled up mosquitoes that came close. We had biological control happening right in front of our eyes.

Both the nymphs and adults of the dragonflies are enemies of mosquitoes. They wolf them down as mosquito wrigglers when they are nymphs, and snatch them out of the air as flying mosquitoes when they are adult dragonflies. Sometimes a dragonfly catches so many mosquitoes that there will be a hundred or more in its mouth at one time. Another common name for the dragonfly is the mosquito hawk. I wonder how many black flies or deer flies a single dragonfly could eat in a short time. I do know a dragonfly is capable of eating its own weight in food in less than an hour.

Occasionally a dragonfly may sweep some insect resting on a leaf into its jaws, but mainly its food consists of insects caught in the air by means of its legs. The six spiny legs form a kind of insect net in which to capture its victims, some as large as bees and moths. Once prey is caught in the basket of its spiny legs, the dragonfly transfers the captured insect to its mouth with the forelegs.

Jim Gilbert has taught and worked as a naturalist for more than 50 years.