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Finding Exuviae

Dragonfly ExuviaWhen it's overcast outside and the dragonflies are scarce, try looking for exuviae, the cast-off skins left behind when the odonate emerges from the larva.
Collecting exuviae is a common practice among entomologists.  Studies conducted on exuviae do no damage to a population and can provide valuable information to scientists on the presence of larvae populations and past breeding populations at a particular habitat or location.  
Exuviae come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Dragonfly exuviae are generally larger, often with pointed tips on the abdomen, while most damselflies are significantly smaller in size and have a leaf-like structure at the tip of the abdomen.
Exuviae are found near water.  Search on emergent vegetation, rocks, tree trunks, logs, and even bridge abutments and you will soon find one. Certain species are habitat specific.  For example, exuviae most likely to be found clinging to emergent vegetation around a pond or lake are likely to be Skimmers, while exuviae found on rocks or vegetation around streams may very well include rare members of the Clubtail family.  Collecting from diverse habitats will yield a good variety of odonates. 
Once you have found an exuviae, take care in removing it.  It is fragile and may have its legs tightly grasping the surface.  There are times when you might find a spider web or piece of vegetation caught in it; the debris should be easier to remove if you dip it gently in warm water for a few minutes.
Small pill bottles and tackle boxes make excellent carry cases for the trip home. Tackle boxes are usually divided up into sections, making it ideal to carry several specimens at a time without damaging them. The best part - it's a non-consumptive way that you can build a collection of different species!
But...you still have to identify it!! Click Here
After identification, if you plan on keeping your exuviae you may do so by storing them in a vial, labeled with the species name, date, location and habitat where collected. 
© 2017 Sheryl Chacon Search