I wish that I could fly
Into the sky
So very high
Just like a dragonfly
I’d fly above the trees
Over the seas in all degrees
To anywhere I please
– “Fly Away“, Lenny Kravitz
A sunny summer morning in the Pacific Northwest of North America, two hours after dawn. The dragonfly squadron perched on leaves of grass and reeds, overlooking the meadow, basking in the new sun, outstretched wings being warmed. A few members revved up, impatient, anxious for news.
“Conditions?”, the squadron commander asked of his weather lookout.
“Favorable, Eldest”, the lookout responded. “Sun unimpeded, temperature warm, wind zero. We could have work to do soon. Our first scouts should return with news any moment now.”
Hardly had the words left the lookoutʻs mandibles when the scouts roared in together, breathless, rocking the reed with the force of their landing. Lookout and commander held on with practiced ease.
“Alates!”, the two hollered out simultaneously.
“Where away?” The lookoutʻs excitement was carefully concealed under protocol, the need for data before action.
“Into the sun, slightly to the left, about three spans of vision away, where there are many felled trees”, the first scout reported. The second scout added, “There are millions of them, all milling around on the ground waiting to fly!”
“Species?”, the commander asked.
“Ants. Red ones”, the second scout responded.
“Damn. And here I was hoping for nice juicy termites”, the lookout lamented.
“Yes, lad”, the Eldest replied to the lookout, “termites are fatter and more nutritious, easier to catch, and not as well defended should any of our squadron be unlucky enough to hit the ground. But termites swarm at the end of the day, not at its beginning. And these pickings will be plenty rewarding enough, if we take appropriate care. Summon the flight!”
“No need, sir”, the lookout responded. Eldest looked up and saw that the air was full of dragonflies on the wing.
“Youʻve heard the news, then?” Eldest called out. The flight bobbed in unison, signaling the affirmative.
“You know where to go and what to do then”, the commander asserted. “We take out as many of the ant alates as we can with the forces we have available to us. If there are as many as have been reported, we won’t get ’em all, but we’ll do as much damage as possible. Any questions?”
“Yeah”, one surly black dragonfly called out. “Weʻre going to jump the alate flight. Whoʻs out there to jump us?”
Eldest turned to the scouts. The first one responded, “We didnʻt see any unusual bird activity, but then the alates had not yet flown. When they do, itʻs only a matter of time before the birds show up. Robins, warblers, sparrows, finches, theyʻre all feeding chicks and looking for cheap eats the same way we are.”
“Correct”, the leader confirmed. “The sooner we get in, accomplish our mission, and get out, the less the chance for casualties. Any other questions?”
A small iridescent flight member called out, “Any sign of … sprays?” The whole flight shuddered visibly.
The second scout replied. “The target is well removed from any place where the humans live or work, and the domain appears to be one in which the humans don’t use any of their infernal devices.”
“Hope you’re right”, the iridescent dragonfly responded doubtfully.
“We remember and honor your flight’s tragedy, Riddy”, the chief commiserated. “As reported, the target area should be safe. But we will all do well to keep an eye out for human and bird activity. Don’t get separated. Stay off the ground lest the worker ants invite you to dinner. And if and when the humans or the birds show up, declare victory and beat it. Ready?”
“Can I bring my girlfriend?” asked a bouncy red bug. The whole flight hooted in derision at the question, hurling insults, mostly inaudible except for one that was repeated by many; “Idiot! Did you just crack your nymph case or something?”
“Flying united is not appropriate to our mission”, Eldest replied sternly. “You can commune with your girl after we’ve successfully prosecuted our attack and you’ve had your share of the plunder, some of which you’ll bring home to her if you’ve got functioning ganglia. Anything else?” Silence, except for the beating of wings.
“OK, then!”, the commander commanded. “Flight, scramble!” The assembled insects lifted in unison, and headed off in the direction of the rising sun, the two scouts in the lead.
The black dragonfly wound up alongside the iridescent one. He called out, “Hey, Riddy!”
“Yeah?”, Riddy called back.
“Sure wish I was as big as my great-great-great-andsoforth-granddaddy ancestors I hear tell about. The ones with wingspans bigger than ten of us stretched wingtip to wingtip? Then, those birds showed up, we could chase them!”
“You’d just wind up with bigger birds”, Riddy responded, and buzzed off.