Kaylee, a second cousin, spent a few weeks here at the family farm. She is a country girl, quite unlike her sister, and she’s ready and willing to get her hands dirty with whatever tasks need addressing, most especially if said tasks involve animals.
Feeding the chickens? She’s there. Picking up eggs? She’s there. Moving the cows from one pasture to another or putting out fresh bales of hay? She’s there. Tending to the horse and donkey? She’s there. Basically, when it comes to Kaylee, she doesn’t shun farm duties.
And though a young girl cursed with that most innate of shortcomings—an intrinsic fear of insects—she has spent sufficient time around me such that she no longer runs from critters but instead now calls my attention to them, asking questions and pondering identifications, considering each creature on its merits and inherent beauty rather than fleeing with hands waving and visceral scream wailing. (She still doesn’t like handling them except under very specific circumstances however, and only very specific kinds of insects, like butterflies and moths, but I’ll keep working on this problem with hope that she’ll make further progress.)
When she pointed out a large insect belly-up in the grass as a small wasp pestered it, I at first thought it a dragonfly, what with wings spread wide and long body and general size. So when I picked it up and set it atop a bolt in the central light pole, immediately I recognized the error of my identification. For it most certainly was not a dragonfly, but instead it was an owlfly. More specifically, it was a male four-spotted owlfly (Ululodes quadripunctatus).
Like their odonate cousins, owlflies are aerial predators, though not as aggressive as dragonflies. But they are nevertheless predacious, thus they are considered beneficial insects.
Warming itself in the meager light of dawn, the predator tolerated my constant in-his-face photography. All the while Kaylee asked questions, attempting to learn about this visitor and his place in the world.
Though she remained unwilling to touch him or let him touch her—I’ll keep working on that—she stayed right there with me, looked closely, inquired about his disposition and condition, and otherwise sought to understand him and his existence.
In the end we left him facing east, facing the growing warmth of a summer morning, facing the new day with hope. And only a short time later, like his namesake avian brethren, the owlfly had silently and suddenly vanished, disappeared into surrounding woods.
Thankfully he left us better for the encounter.