Calling their flight graceful would be inaccurate, but slowly bobbing through the humid understory, there was something transfixing about their movement, their body bouncing out-of-sync with their brightly coloured wing tips as they travelled between the leaves they would clumsily cling to. We would come across these charming insects throughout the forest and always stop to observe for just a moment, it was difficult not to do so.
This enormous damselfly, Mecistogaster linearis, belongs to the Pseudostigmatidae family known as the helicopter damselflies, the largest of all damselflies, and restricted to the Neotropics. They specialise in hunting web-building spiders by skillfully plucking them from their webs, or occasionally taking insects which have been previously wrapped in silk by the spider. They locate webs lit by the sunlight shining through gaps in the canopy and will return to the same web several times to hunt spiders which have taken over the web from the previous victim. They are the only Odonata that have a specialised hunting strategy.
Interestingly, this family of damselflies exhibit a unique behaviour whereby they lay their eggs in water-filled bromeliads or tree hollows, in which the larvae then mature.
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