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Nature & You: Insect sometimes called a 'Snake Doctor'

A dragonfly rests on a blade of grass at Lake Hefner. [Photo by Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman]
A dragonfly rests on a blade of grass at Lake Hefner. [Photo by Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman]

I grew up in a rural area of eastern Oklahoma. Those were my formative years.

What I learned about nature and the outdoors, I learned from my buddies. Likely as not, however, what they imparted on me as astute knowledge was, upon closer examination, just so much myth and hooey.

Take, for example, the name that they bestowed on the dragonfly. "Snake Doctor" was their name for this mini-beast. "If you chop a snake up into several pieces," they said, "the 'Snake Doctor' will come along and sew up the wounds and make the snake whole again."

That seems like a pretty fanciful tale. How do you suppose they came up with such a big "windy"?

I'd challenge you to spend some time watching a section of quiet backwater this summer. You'll invariably be rewarded for your patience. Along will come a dragonfly, and she will hover above the water's surface and methodically pump her lower abdomen up and down — not unlike the needlework of a surgeon stitching up a wound. It's nothing of the sort, of course. She's busy, instead, laying egg after egg after egg.

If you do follow my advice and go afield this summer, for gosh sakes, don't let my childhood buddies tag along with you. They'll fill your head with all sorts of nonsense.

Neil Garrison

Neil Garrison is an outdoor nature enthusiast. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University/Stillwater; he earned a B.S. degree in Wildlife Ecology. Prior to his 2009 retirement, he was the Naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center for 30... Read more ›

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