New field guide on S’pore’s dragonflies and damselflies records beauty of 136 species

SINGAPORE – As the clouds part at Windsor Park, a lone pink dragonfly raises its long body skywards, sticking its “butt” up.

The insect assumes this tower-like position on sunny days to avoid overheating, said ecologist Robin Ngiam, 47.

“Dragonflies are cold-blooded creatures that require the energy of the sun for key metabolic activities. However, too much sun can be harmful, so lifting their bodies into this position can help reduce the surface area exposed to heat,” he added.

While this “handstand” is unique to dragonflies, Mr Ngiam said these insects are very diverse as a group behaviourally and visually.

For instance, the blue dasher is a cyanide-blue dragonfly that skims along the pond surface in the day, while the spear-tailed duskhawker, a green dragonfly active in the dusk, rests in the dense and dark forest undergrowth in the day.

Mr Ngiam said: “I think for a typical Singaporean, there is a wrong perception that insects as a whole are bad, that when you see a bug, you have to kill it.

“But that’s not true, especially in a more natural environment where dragonflies can be beneficial predators of insects like mosquitoes, while also being very attractive and colourful.”

In the 75ha Windsor Park alone, the ecologist estimates that around 50 species of dragonflies reside there.

This is more than a third of the 136 species of dragonflies and damselflies recorded in Singapore as at 2022.

Mr Ngiam said: “My hope is that Singaporeans can view dragonfly watching as a way of experiencing nature and use dragonflies as a gateway to begin appreciating the insect world.”