OFFBEAT: Here's some wild reading

Ohio's greatest insect is being celebrated. Picking the state's best insect isn't a matter of guesswork. Selecting th
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

Ohio's greatest insect is being celebrated.

Picking the state's best insect isn't a matter of guesswork. Selecting the top bug can be determined by objective criteria: (1) Do the bugs harm human beings by stinging us or spreading disease? (2) Are they good looking? (3) Do they do anything that's actually useful?

I won't keep you in suspense. Ohio's best bug is the dragonfly.

Dragonflies don't have stingers, just big mouths. They don't go around looking for excuses to bite people. True, the Wikipedia says they'll bite to get away from you if you grab them by the abdomen, but that's only fair. Keep your hands to yourself.

No insect is better looking than a dragonfly. With those huge eyes and those gigantic wing spans, they look more like an alien from a particularly-frightening science fiction movie than a real insect. One of my favorites, the male violet dancer, is a lurid purple.

Even the name "dragonfly" sounds exotic.

Ditto on point 3 too: Dragonflies love to gobble up mosquitoes and flies.

Mosquitoes are bad news for a hiker in the woods. But for a dragonfly, a big cloud of buzzing mosquitoes is a Las Vegas buffet.

Lots of people look at birds. But you can take up dragonfly watching instead, with the help of a new full-color 70-page field guide published by Ohio's Division of Wildlife, "Common Dragonflies & Damselflies of Ohio." Soon you'll be on your way to joining the Ohio Odonata Society (dues are just $5 a year!)

The brochure is written by Dave McShaffrey, a professor of biology at Marietta College who wrote his Purdue Ph.D. dissertation on mayflies, and Bob Glotzhober, curator of natural history for the Ohio Historical Society.

I got my copy at a recent meeting of the Erie MetroParks board.

The book explains how to identify dragonflies. Do the eyes stick out on the side (a particularly attractive bug-eyed look) or are they clumped together?

The booklet also offers tips on good places to look for dragonflies. (One top spot:Resthaven Wildlife Area near Castalia.)

If you like fish or birds or deer better than dragonflies, I have good news.

The Ohio Division of Wildlife puts out many different free booklets for fishermen, hunters, animal lovers and birdwatchers. The URL is too long to list here, but if you search "Ohio Division of Wildlife Publications" on Google, the site will pop right up.

Many of these publications can be downloaded from the Web site, but the main page has a toll-free number to call to have a booklet mailed to you.

The division's birding publications include a "Field Checklist of Ohio Birds," and brochures about bird feeding and attracting birds. You can learn about wild turkeys, the Canada goose or other Ohio birds. There are publications on types of fish and about fishing, and brochures about many different animals, including beavers, deer and foxes.

Publications on hunting, regulations and wildlife management also are available. There's even recipes for cooking venison, fish and turkey. (You can use deer meat for Texas Snakebite Chili.)

Some of these are substantial booklets, like my dragonfly booklet, while others are just one page. Some appear to be mainly available online. All are useful sources of information.

If you're an Ohio taxpayer, you helped pay for the publications. So if you like the outdoors or animals, check out what's available on the Web site.