| Story by Cindy Cain |
Thirty brown bugs released as aquatic larvae into a Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve streamlet will soon shed their drab skins and emerge ready for flight as Hine’s emerald dragonflies.
Only 300 or so of the green-eyed dragonflies are known to exist in Illinois, and the Forest Preserve District’s Lockport Prairie has the largest population of the federally endangered insect in the state.
A team of representatives from the Forest Preserve Districts of Will and DuPage counties and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources was on hand Monday, June 8, as the larvae were set free in the preserve to boost the species’ numbers in the wild. Two small red-and-white coolers containing the creatures were carried through the prairie grass to the perfect location for release: a bubbling streamlet known to be a dragonfly sweet spot.
The task was simple: tip a small plastic sample cup with a dragonfly larva inside into the water and watch the insects slowly drift away. But the reward was enormous for the “biology nerds” who participated, said Dan Kirk, natural heritage biologist from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
“You don’t often get an opportunity to do a federally endangered species release, so when you get a chance to see something like this, it’s very exciting,” he said.