Here comes the sun: The effect of a solar panel prairie on a dragonfly and damselfly community
Emily L. Ott
The order Odonata that includes dragonflies and damselfies are a widespread and important insect group as predators, particularly in riparian areas. Their polarotactic capabilities provide them with an attraction to polarized light that is emitted from water which allows them to navigate their way to a water source to lay their eggs. These tendencies could also make them fall prey to an ecological trap: solar panels emit the same polarized light, potentially fooling the Odonates into laying their eggs on the panels instead of in water. The University of Dayton installed a solar array in 2018, and put a prairie underneath of this solar array to attract native insects. During the Summer and Fall months of July through October, I surveyed Odonate abundance and behavior in a prairie both underneath and outside of a solar panel array to determine if these species were using the prairie and determine if the solar panels were causing an ecological trap for this species. Odonates were most abundant in the prairie outside of the solar array, with almost no individuals seen perching underneath of the solar panels. Also, I observed no egg laying behavior on the panels. The lack of this ecological trap could be due to the inclusion of white grids on the solar panels that breaks up the polarized light and lessens the degree of attraction Odonates experience. The research shows that these native insects do use this constructed prairie, but avoid the shaded area underneath the solar array. This work has implications for how these solar arrays are installed and maintained: based on this research, I recommend using solar panels with these white grids to avoid ecological traps for polarotactic insect species.
Kathleen A. Kargl, Chelse M. Prather
Primary Advisor's Department
Stander Symposium project, College of Arts and Sciences
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Sustainable Cities and Communities
"Here comes the sun: The effect of a solar panel prairie on a dragonfly and damselfly community" (2021). Stander Symposium Projects. 2093.