It might surprise you to learn Portage County has more than 100 species of dragonflies.
During a short walk along the Cuyahoga River, you may see a few. But, most likely, you will not be as taken with them as Larry Rosche.
Coauthor of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Northeast Ohio (Second Edition), Rosche sat in the Bookends Café of the recently to talk about the book.
“This is a very fascinating, fascinating subject,” he said, consumed by the vivid photographs that fill his book. Flipping back and forth through the pages, Rosche paused to gaze out the windows as the 90-degree day presses up against them.
“Today’s a good day for them,” he said of the insects. But “it’s not a good day for me; it’s just too hot.”
Rosche did a lot of bird research while working as a biologist for the state of Ohio. He noticed that at a certain point in the afternoon birds stop singing, but dragonflies flourish into the evening.
His interest grew and eventually manifested in book form – the first edition of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Northeast Ohio, which came out in 2001.
The first book was filled with drawings, but people “want to see huge pictures of what the thing looks like, especially when they’re similar,” Rosche said. “This and this one, they look alike, but they’re slightly different.”
He points to a slender damselfly – a relative of the dragonfly – commenting on how tiny they are and how easily they can be overlooked.
“Some people notice (them), but most people don’t notice anything,” Rosche said — emphasizing the word "anything."
He went back to looking through the photographs and talking about how stunning they are, especially admiring one in particular. It's a bright blue female completely submerged in water. He said she is laying eggs.
“She can stay there for 30 minutes or more,” Rosche said. “Then she’ll come up and fly away … then get eaten by a bird.”
He looked at the photograph for a little longer before turning the page.
“You see this blue? That is stunning,” he continued, pointing to a species called Spatterdock Darner.
Rosche has learned everything he knows about biology from studying dragonflies. He said he’s never taken a biology class in his life and that all the best naturalists are self-taught.
Rosche quit his job as a math teacher at Stow High School to explore his lifelong interest in birds. Though, in a way, he still teaches while taking groups around the region to catch glimpses of dragonfly species.
“We’ve had a lot of kids’ groups out, we’ve had a lot of old people out, we’ve had a lot of PH.Ds go out to go ride around with us,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun, really.”
The proceeds from Dragonflies and Damselflies of Northeast Ohio go to the Natural Areas Division of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where the newest edition can be purchased.