Dragon Fly: All You Need to Know – Expert Insights and Fun Facts

Dragonflies are fascinating insects with a rich history and unique characteristics. They are skilled hunters, known for their agility and speed in flight. In fact, they are among the fastest flying insects in the world, capable of reaching speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. Their stunning appearance and impressive flying skills make them a popular subject for nature enthusiasts and photographers alike.

These awe-inspiring insects boast an impressive wingspan, ranging from two to five inches, and their large, multifaceted eyes provide them with near 360-degree vision. Dragonflies are predators, primarily feeding on other insects such as mosquitoes, making them an essential part of a healthy ecosystem. Moreover, they are often considered an indicator species, meaning their presence can be an indication of a well-balanced, clean environment.

Some common species of dragonflies you might encounter are the Blue Dasher, Green Darner, and the Black Saddlebags. Identifying specific species requires paying close attention to their markings and wing patterns, as well as the colors of their bodies and eyes.

An Overview of Dragonflies

History and Evolution

Dragonflies are fascinating insects belonging to the order Odonata. They have a long history, with their fossils dating back over 300 million years. Early dragonflies were much larger than those seen today, with wingspans reaching up to 2 feet.

Here are some characteristics of Odonata:

  • Elongated abdomens
  • Large eyes
  • Two pairs of wings
  • Aquatic larvae stage

Types and Species

There are more than 5,000 species of dragonflies and damselflies in the order Odonata. They are often classified into two main suborders, Anisoptera (dragonflies) and Zygoptera (damselflies), based on differences in physical features and ecology.

Dragonflies vs Damselflies: A comparison

Feature Dragonflies Damselflies
Eyes Compound, large, and adjoin Smaller and separated
Wings Hindwing wider at base Hindwing same width
Body Robust and strong Slender and delicate
Resting position Wings spread out horizontally Wings folded together

Dragonflies can be found in various habitats such as streams, wetlands, and lakes. Adult dragonflies are known for their fast, agile flying and brightly-colored bodies, often performing impressive aerial acrobatics to catch prey.

Their larvae, called nymphs, exhibit unique features such as:

  • Gills inside the rectum for breathing
  • Aquatic lifestyle
  • Feeding on various aquatic organisms including mosquito larvae

These characteristics allow dragonflies to thrive in their aquatic environments and play a vital role in controlling the populations of other insects, particularly those considered pests like mosquitoes.

Physical Characteristics

Body Structure

Dragonflies have a long, slender body divided into three main parts: the head, thorax, and abdomen. Here are some notable features:

  • Large, compound eyes that cover most of the head
  • Strong, short legs used for perching or catching prey
  • Length varies from 0.2 – 2 inches, depending on the species

Wings and Flight

Dragonflies possess two sets of wings. Key points include:

  • Forewings and hindwings, functioning independently
  • Ability to propel themselves forward, hover, and change direction quickly
  • Skilled and agile flyers

Colors and Patterns

Dragonflies display a wide range of colors and patterns, some of which serve as camouflage or mimic other insects. Highlights are:

  • Common colors: grey, black, blue, green, and red
  • Brightly colored species may mimic bees and wasps
  • Patterns vary between species and within the same species

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Eggs and Larvae

Dragonflies start their life cycle in water. Adult females lay their eggs, usually in or around ponds. Some species lay eggs inside plant tissues. An interesting fact is the female dragonfly’s ability to submerge itself in water to lay eggs. Within a few weeks, larvae emerge from the eggs.

Key features of this stage:

  • Eggs laid in water or on plants
  • Larval stage begins after hatching

Nymph Stage

Once the larvae hatch, they enter the nymph stage, spending most of their time in water. Nymphs are aquatic and feed on other insects, tadpoles, or even small fish. They go through a series of molts, shedding their exoskeletons as they grow. The nymph stage can last from a few months to several years, depending on the species.

Key characteristics of nymphs:

  • Aquatic life
  • Feeding on other aquatic creatures
  • Numerous molts

Comparison of major stages:

Life Stage Habitat Lifespan
Egg Water Weeks
Nymph Water Months to years
Adult Air/Land Weeks to months

Adult Stage

Once nymphs are fully grown and ready to transition to adulthood, they crawl out of the water and undergo their final molt. They emerge with fully developed wings and begin their life as adult dragonflies. During this stage, they mate with other adult dragonflies. The adult lifespan typically lasts a few weeks to a few months, during which they focus primarily on mating and laying eggs.

Key activities of adult dragonflies:

  • Mating
  • Laying eggs
  • Shorter lifespan compared to nymph stage

Behavior and Ecology

Hunting and Feeding

Dragonflies are adept hunters that primarily feed on smaller insects like mosquitoes and flies. They are known for their impressive midair movement and speed, allowing them to snatch up prey with ease. Some noteworthy features of their hunting technique include:

  • Hovering: Dragonflies use their powerful muscles to hover in place, stalking their prey before striking.
  • Speed: Reaching speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, dragonflies are capable of swift, agile maneuvers.
  • Antennae: Their antennae aid in detecting the slightest movements of potential prey, improving their targeting.

Habitat and Migration

Dragonflies inhabit a variety of environments but prefer areas with warm temperatures and aquatic plants. They spend their early life stages as nymphs, which live underwater and breathe through gills. Throughout their life cycle, dragonflies may migrate to find more suitable habitats or follow swarms of prey. Their preferred habitats include:

  • Aquatic: As both nymphs and adults, dragonflies rely on water sources for sustenance and reproduction.
  • Territory: They can be territorial, establishing perches within their selected areas to claim dominance.
  • Migration: Long-distance migrations have been documented for some species, covering hundreds of miles.

Predators and Defense

Dragonflies face a range of predators, from birds and spiders to larger aquatic creatures. In response, they have developed defense strategies to protect themselves:

  • Speed: Fast flying and quick reflexes aid in escaping potential threats.
  • Biting: Although not dangerous to humans, dragonflies use their powerful mandibles to bite would-be predators.
  • Camouflage: Some species exhibit colors and patterns that help them blend into their surroundings, reducing the risk of detection.

Comparing nymphs and adult dragonflies in terms of their habitats and defense strategies:

Stage Habitat Predators Defense
Nymph Underwater Aquatic species Camouflage, molting
Adult Above water Birds, spiders Speed, biting

Dragonflies play a critical role in ecosystems, acting both as predators and prey throughout their lives. By understanding their behavior and ecology, we can appreciate the contributions these captivating insects make to their surroundings.

Relationship with Humans

Cultural Significance

Dragonflies have been featured in various forms of art and literature throughout history. They are often seen as symbols of:

  • Transformation
  • Change
  • Adaptability

In many cultures, dragonflies represent positive traits:

  • Japanese culture: strength, happiness, and courage
  • Native American culture: swiftness, activity, and purity

They are also the inspiration for beautiful pieces of jewelry with intricate patterns.

Environmental Impact and Benefits

Dragonflies play a vital role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems:

  • Mosquito population control: As carnivorous insects, they help keep mosquito populations in check
  • Pollination: Though not as efficient as bees, they also contribute to the pollination process

Dragonflies are indicators of a healthy ecosystem, particularly in wetlands. They provide:

  • A food source for larger predators like birds, fish, and praying mantises
  • A control system for populations of smaller flying insects

Inspiration for Science and Technology

Dragonflies have inspired various advancements in science and technology due to their:

  • Unique flying abilities: hovering, flying backwards, and rapid directional changes
  • Highly efficient hunting strategies
  • Complex and advanced visual system

Examples of dragonfly-inspired innovations:

  • Biomimetic robots: Engineers study dragonfly flight patterns to create more agile and efficient flying robots
  • Drone technology: Improved hovering capabilities and flight control
  • Vision systems: Enhanced imaging systems that mimic dragonfly visual processing
Dragonflies Hummingbirds
Legs Six legs Two legs
Speeds High speeds Moderate speeds
Flying Backwards & hovering Hovering only
Predators Mosquitos & other insects Nectar-rich flowers
Wing design Metallic, powerful, transparent Colored, iridescent

By understanding and appreciating the relationship between dragonflies and humans, we can develop a deeper connection with the natural world around us.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Magenta Dragonfly from Hong Kong is Trithemis aurora

 

pink dragonfly
Sun, Nov 30, 2008 at 2:55 PM
his beauty is from my trip to Hong Kong in August. I have never seen one this color and thought I would share it with you for the upcoming holiday season…even though it is hot pink.
polymersn
hong kong

Unknown Dragonfly
Trithemis aurora

Dear polymersn,
Magenta is quite an unusual color in the insect world. Certain katydids have this bright jarring coloration, but they are color sports and not typical. We have never seen such color in a Dragonfly, but a google search for “pink dragonfly hong kong” turned up a matching image on Flicker identified as Trithemis aurora. The TrekNature website has information on the species, but the image is not of a brightly colored individual. There is also online reference to the common name Dawn Dropwing or Crimson Dropwing. We visited numerous websites while trying to gather information on the Dawn Dropwing, and there are many photographs posted online, but your photo is, in our critical estimation, the loveliest we encountered.

Letter 2 – Green Lynx Spider eats Pennant Dragonfly

 

Spider Vs Dragonfly
Your website is great… I took these pictures in my back yard and thought you might like them for your site. I’m not sure what kind of spider it is but it looks cool! Keep up the great work! Thanks,
Rick M.
Upstate, South Carolina

Hi Rick,
All we can say is WOW. What amazing images you have taken. Your spider is a female Green Lynx, Peucetia viridans. Green Lynx Spiders do not build webs. They pounce on their prey, which generally consists of pollinating insects including flies, bees, wasps and butterflies. Your spider has captured quite an enormous meal, one of the Pennant Dragonflies in the genus Celithemis, probably the Calico Pennant, Celithemis elisa which is pictured on BugGuide.

Letter 3 – Green Darners Mating

 

Green Darner Pair
Another photo for the “Love Bugs” page. It took me almost an hour to capture these two green darners coupled together and laying eggs on camera. They flit around quite a bit.
Nadjia

Hi Nadjia
Not all Dragonflies remain coupled while laying eggs. We are happy to have your image that nicely illustrates this mating technique. In this way, the male is ensured that the female doesn’t successfully mate with another male and the first male’s genes get passed on to the next generation.

Letter 4 – Green Darners Mating

 

Dragonfly Love
Dear Bugman,
Love your site! I work at a garden center in Orlando, Florida and come across some strange creatures from time to time…your site has been helpful in identifying some of the little buggers. (sorry, couldn’t help it.) Anyway, I thought you might like this photo for your Bug Love section. She looks like she put on a little make-up for the occasion.
Laura Stump

Hi Laura,
Thanks for the wonderful photo of Green Darners Mating. The male is in the front. He uses his anal claspers to grab onto the female’s neck and she uses the tip of her abdomen to gather his sperm.

Letter 5 – Halloween Pennant Dragonfly with hitch-hiking Mites

 

Halloween Pennant question
I’ve been enjoying your site for a while now and decided to seek your thoughts on this Halloween Pennant. Specifically, what are the red balls on the thorax of this pennant? I’ve had no success in finding an answer anywhere and haven’t seen any other pictures showing this. I took this picture in New Jersey in early August. Thanks!
Tom Raub
Strasburg, PA

Hi Tom,
We absolutely love your photo of the Halloween Pennant, Celithemis eponina, with the hitch-hiking Mites. These Mites use the Dragonfly to travel from one body of water to another, a means of transportation known as Phoresy.

Letter 6 – Elisa Skimmer and Darner saved from Drowning

 

A dragonfly story
Seeing your great site has made me want to share all my favorite bug pictures. My fiancé and I had a fun dragonfly experience this summer. We were swimming in Walden Pond when we came upon a large dragonfly floating submerged under the water. It was so beautiful I decided I wanted to take it home, so I took it out of the water and laid it in the sun on my backpack to dry. 45 minutes later when we came out of the water, I picked up the dragonfly, and it grabbed my fingers and clung on for dear life. Over the next half hour or so it revived more and more, and I left it clinging to a branch in a nearby tree. Two days later when we returned, I checked the area, and it was gone, so I like to think it revived completely and was able to go about its business – a childhood spent saving bugs from pools taught me that bugs can make the most amazing recoveries. That day, we again went swimming, and when we returned, we found another dragonfly sitting on our backpack. It refused to move even when we moved in close for photos. Finally, my fiancé moved his hand over it, and it lifted just long enough to avoid being brushed, and then realighted on his hand, where it stayed long enough for another good photo op. We like to imagine it was coming to thank us for the previous day’s rescue. And when the photos came back, we noticed for the first time that there were red hearts on its abdomen!
Johanne

Hi Johanne,
What a wonderful story. We believe the Dragonfly with the hearts is an Elisa Skimmer, Celithemis elisa, and the other is one of the Darners.

Letter 7 – Jagged-Edged Saddlebag Dragonfly

 

what’s that bug
Hi there!
Can you help me identify this bug… looks like a dragonfly, and I’ve never seen one with clear wings before…

There are even species of Dragonflies with clearer wings than your Jagged-Edged Saddlebag which have broad black saddle shaped marks on the hind wings. This species is easily identified by those markings and the two yellow spots on the abdomen.

Letter 8 – Hero Swamp Darner

 

Dragonfly
Hello,
We live in NYC, and last night we found this Dragonfly out in the hallway of our building. We would like to know what kind of dragonfly it is. What do these dragonflies eat? Also, how long do they live? Thank you for your help.
Christian

Hi Christian,
We believe your dragonfly is a is most likely a Hero Swamp Darner, Epiaeschna heros. They are HUGE. Adults eat small insects caught in flight. They help to control mosquitos. They will only live one season.

Letter 9 – Eastern Amberwing Dragonfly

 

male Eastern Amberwing
Hi Lisa and Daniel!
I know you’re busy, love the site, look at it daily. I captured this handsome little guy’s picture today and thought you might like a shot of a male Eastern Amberwing to go along with the female sent in the other day. We live in central Illinois and he about 15 of his cousins were flitting along the lake shore while I hunted spiders in the rocks (did not find anything interesting). These guys are my favorite of the dragonflies, very pretty. Happy Bugging!
Rebekah

Hi Rebekah,
Thank you for adding your photo of a Male Eastern Amberwing to our archives.

Letter 10 – Green Darner Female

 

Green Darner Photo
Hello. I saw you posted an Ailanthus Webworm Moth photo on your home page. Thanks, after I had sent my poor photo in, I kept looking but never figured it of course because I didn’t realize that it was even a moth. None the less all that time spent browsing insect pictures has helped me identify some other insects in and about my garden. I took this photo this morning of the green darner female resting on some coleus plants. Thought you might enjoy. Thanks for the site.
Mary in Chicagoland

Hi Mary,
Thanks for sending us your photo of a female Green Darner.

Letter 11 – Green Darner Male

 

Rescued green darner
My daughter discovered a dragonfly–I think it’s a male green darner–stuck in our pool today. We fished it out, and while it was drying and recuperating I managed to get a few pictures. I thought you might enjoy them.
Phyllis

Hi Phyllis,
You and your daughter performed your good deed of the day and now we have this wonderful image of a male Green Darner to post online.

Letter 12 – Green Darner Dragonfly

 

Green darner dragonfly
I’ve identified this as a green darner, Anax junius, based on Peterson’s “eyes in contact for a considerable distance” and “taget-like mark on upper part of the face”. And of course the size, more than 3 inches long.I though you might like the photo for your files. I took this photo at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park in Ontario, halfway between Ottawa and Kingston. She was sunning herself on a tree in a clearing fairly early in the morning. Pat in Montreal Ontario, Murphy’s Point Provincial Park

Green Darner
Green Darner

Hi Pat,
Thanks for sending your perfectly lovely image of a Green Darner Dragonfly to our website.

Letter 13 – Eastern Pondhawk eats Blue Dasher

 

Canibal – Image 4 of approx. 35
Sat, Oct 11, 2008 at 3:16 PM
Hi!
Don’t know if you want – but here is a image of a Canibal Dragonfly. This was shortly after it bit the head off it’s meal. This is the 4th shot taken out of approx. 35 Hope you can use! Thank’s Again!!! and Have a Great Day!
Brent Hansen
Pinellas County Florida

Green Darner eats Green Darner
Eastern Pondhawk eats Blue Dasher

Hi again Brent,
It seems that both the predator and prey are Green Darners. We wholeheartedly welcome any comments or corrections on this posting.

When I spotted the two on a Hibiscus – I thought they were mating.
Then – right in front of my eyes – I saw one bite the head off the
other. They flew to the fence at the side of my yard – and that was
where I got my best shots. It sat and ate almost all of the other
Dragonfly before flying away to finish it off.
Dragonflies that I have observed in my backyard are voracious
predators. I was trying to photograph a Green Leaf Hopper on my hand.
It flew away and a Dragonfly whizzed in and snatched it out of the
air. I have shots of that Dragonfly munching the Leaf Hopper.
At certain times of year here – they swarm the pool in our backyard.I
have images of Blues ,Reds ,Golds and Greens. Those were the only ones
that sat still long enough.
But – I sure would not want one mad at me – if you look closely at the
jaw – you will see “TWO” sets of chompers. There is a smaller set to
the top and a larger set to the bottom. If ants can inflict a welt
from their tiny jaws – then I think these guys can literally cut a
nice chunk out of your skin.I am now a little leary letting one rest
on my hand and fingers.
If you would like some other colored images of these Dragonflies – let
me know – I have a couple close up head shots that really show the
texture of the eyes and upper body.
Have a Great Day!
Brent

Correction:Sat, Feb 21, 2009 at 12:05 AM
If I may add a correction, the upper one is a male of Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicollis), which is well known to pray on insects of its own size, as well as for cannibalism, but in this case it’s rather a Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis).
I hope this helps.
Renaud, Switzerland

Letter 14 – Green Darner

 

Eastern Pondhawk?
Location:  Western Massachusetts
September 8, 2010 1:39 pm
This big fella (gal?) was having a long sunbath in my garden on a warm August day. It was probably 3” -4” inches long. And look at that ”one-eyed” marking on it’s head – pretty neat! After searching your site and BugGuide, it looks to be an Eastern Pondhawk. Any clarification would be appreciated. Thanks for your tireless efforts.
Signature:  Lynn Bee

Green Darner

Hi Lynn,
Your Dragonfly is actually a Green Darner.  You can compare your photo to this nearly exact match on bugGuide.

Thanks Daniel,
I guess I should have gone further into BugGuide or “green dragonflies” than I did. Your identification of my green darner is much appreciated. The 35 or more pix I took of that ham have graced my homepage and everything else I could put him/her on for a year….yep, it took that long to get those photos loaded and tagged, lol. Thanks again so very much,
Lynn Bee

Letter 15 – Green Darner

 

Eastern Pondhawk, we think
Location: Amherstview, Ontario
November 15, 2010 9:16 pm
We found this beautiful dragonfly on our apartment outside wall. We have never seen a dragonfly this big before. We thought you could use another picture for your website.
Signature: big fans of What’s That Bug, Tyler (9 yrs) and Brennen (7 yrs)

Green Darner

Dear Tyler and Brennen,
Thanks so much for sending us your Dragonfly photos, but this is not an Eastern Pondhawk.  It is a Green Darner which you can verify by comparing your photo to images posted to BugGuide.  According to BugGuide, the Green Darner,
Anax junius:  “Females oviposit in aquatic vegetation, eggs laid beneath the water surface. Larvae probably take several years to mature. Mature larva crawls up an emergent plant before adult emerges. Adults migrate north in Spring, these do breed in Canada. In the Fall the adults may form swarms and migrate south.

Thank you so much, you made my children’s day!

Letter 16 – Globe Skimmer Exuviae and Imago

 

Bug in our Pool
Location: Mulvane, Kansas
July 8, 2011 6:13 am
Hello Bugman, our pool was drained six weeks ago and after many delays with our pool guy we still have an empty pool. Actually, not totally empty, about 8 inches of green water in the deep end. A few weeks ago, we started seeing these tiny bugs underwater that were sort of clearish with gray markings. Then yesterday I noticed they had come out of the water into the shallow end and were mating! I am totally grossed out by the whole situation and am worried my yard is going to be overrun with these things and what the heck are they. I’ve searched your site and they seem waterbuggish, but not quite. Please help.
Signature: Thanks, Linda and Steve

Dragonfly Exuviae

Bug in Pool (prior email
Location: Mulvane, KS
July 8, 2011 6:55 am
Dear What’s that Bug, believe it or not, but I’ve been looking for weeks before submitting my request to you. Then, this morning went back out to my pool to see if there was anything new with my bug and there was – it turned into a dragon fly! So, I’ve self-identified, and attached pics for your viewing pleasure. Guess they weren’t mating, but eating each other or just hanging out, who knows. Thanks again. (BTW, I feel so much better – dragonflies are nice) 🙂
Signature: Linda and Steve

Newly Metamorphosed Globe Skimmer Dragonfly

Dear Linda and Steve,
We are happy that you managed to self-identify the Dragonfly Exuviae that you found near your pool, and we are pleased that you were lucky enough to photograph a newly metamorphose adult.  We have considerable difficulty with Dragonfly species identifications, and we don’t want to take the time to attempt that at the moment since the sun is up in Los Angeles and we want to put in some Swiss Chard and other vegetables before it gets too hot.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to supply a species name for us.

Letter 17 – Green Darner

 

HUGE Dragonfly
Location: Aspen Hill, Maryland
September 26, 2011 12:37 am
Just curious what this fella is. I’m sure there is lineage here, but this is a very first for me seeing this giant dragonfly. This picture was taken last night (9/24) at about midnight, and he or she was bouncing all over the arbor where I was sitting. Very noisy (sounded like tissue paper being crumpled) and erratic.
Signature: Patti of Maryland

Green Darner

Hi Patti,
Your Dragonfly is a Green Darner,
Anax junius.  We believe that based on the description posted to BugGuide, it is a male.  Green Darners are known to migrate south in the fall.

Mr. Marlos:
Thank you so much for your identification.  I did some brief photo research last night and found plenty of close matches, but none exactly right.  Searching now with “anax junius” I see plenty of matches for my backyard boy.  I’ve lived on this little quarter acre lot all my life, but this is my first sighting of this particular dragon fly.
I think I was taken aback by the eye marking between the eyes.  After looking closely at it, I quickly realized that the marking was simply that – a marking and not an eye, but the primitive mind strikes first and I found myself hissing like a superstitious old woman from the Massachusetts Colony, “ahh, ’tis a cyclops, he is!”
Honestly, I try to approach insects and other buggy animals as truly amazing and alien creatures who arose from the same primordial soup as I, but when a spider rappels down onto me while I’m in the shower, it will always end with unnecessary carnage.
Anyway, thanks again!
Patti

Letter 18 – Green Darner

 

Subject: What is it?
Location: Allentown, PA
June 13, 2013 6:39 am
I found this sitting on my bricks on my front porch this morning.
Signature: Trina

Green Darner Dragonfly
Green Darner Dragonfly

Dear Trina,
It seems we don’t get enough photos of the magnificent Green Darner Dragonfly,
Anax junius.  During the research of his book, Daniel unearthed 13 Maleficent Names for Dragonflies, and they include Devil’s Darning Needle, Ear Sewer, Ear Cutter, Water Witch, Snake Doctor, Devil’s Little Horse and Evil Old Hag’s Horse.  Green Darners are a migratory species.

Letter 19 – Female Widow Skimmer

 

Subject: Dragonfly
Location: Indiana
October 15, 2013 7:50 am
We found this cool dragonfly in our garden and wondered what kind it was. He held still long enough for me to get a cool picture. Thanks.
Signature: Marie

Dragonfly
Female Widow Skimmer

Hi Marie,
This really is a beautiful Dragonfly photo.  We are much too tired to try to identify it tonight, so we are posting it.  Perhaps one of our readers will supply an identification comment before we awake.  Well, after posting, we decided to give it a try, and we found a match on BugGuide to a female Widow Skimmer,
Libellula luctuosa.

Letter 20 – Green Darner Dragonfly maimed and killed

 

Subject: florida bug
Location: south florida
December 26, 2013 8:34 pm
What is it?
Signature: mary

Dragonfly with missing abdomen
Green Darner with missing abdomen

Hi Mary,
Some predator, probably a bird, caught this Dragonfly and ate the abdomen, leaving the less palatable head, wings and legs for you to find.  Your Dragonfly is a Green Darner,
Anax junius, and you can read up more on this species on BugGuide where it states:  “Adults are strong flyers and may be found anywhere but are more common near larval habitat: still marshy waters, fresh and slightly brackish.”  

Letter 21 – Green Darner and Dragonfly Art

 

Subject: Anax junius (?) and some bug art
Location: Niagara
April 27, 2014 6:36 pm
Hello,
Enjoying your site as always. I rescued this dragonfly from the roadway when I was out for a run today– surprisingly, he was alive and in good shape! He rode along on my finger for a while until I found a nice sunny–and safe– fence post for him to rest on. I suspect he was trying to soak up some heat from the asphalt. I think he’s a green darner (ajax junius), although I’m not sure he perfectly matches the pictures on your site. I didn’t think to measure him before I left him, but hopefully my hand gives enough sense of scale. He’s my first dragonfly of the season, so I’m very excited that he let me give him a lift!
I’ve also attached a dragonfly doodle I recently finished–thought you might enjoy.
Thanks!
Signature: Alison

Green Darner
Green Darner

Dear Alison,
Your Green Darner image is beautiful, but we really love your Dragonfly doodle, which would make gorgeous fabric print.

Update:  April 28, 2014
Oops.  We forgot to post the image of your art.

Dragonfly Doodle
Dragonfly Doodle

Letter 22 – Green Darner

 

Subject: Daniel, Anax junius?
Location: Hawthorne, CA
June 11, 2014 1:29 pm
Hi,
We spotted this out back this morning and I’m wondering if I have it properly identified as a male Anax junius. How’s that rodent?
Signature: Thanks, Anna Carreon

Green Darner
Green Darner

Hi Anna,
This is indeed a male Green Darner, and your image is positively gorgeous with great detail.  The gopher continues to dig around the yard and plants continue to vanish.

Have you thought about getting a few gopher snakes?  I know that years ago we came into possession of a few and Marty gave them away to a friend who had gophers.  Gopher problem solved.
Anna

That is exactly what I have thought of doing, but since the problem is so recent, I haven’t had a chance to act on it.  Gopher Snakes are native to Mount Washington, and I live right near an entrance to a state park, so the habitat would be wonderful for them.  I may still try to act on that.

Letter 23 – Green Darner attracted to window at night

 

Subject: Weird bug
Location: Bowlong Green Kentucky
September 15, 2014 8:10 pm
This huge bug kept trying to fly into my window. It was green and yellow with 4 wings. It looked kind of like a dragon fly mixed with a horse fly. I only got a couple pictures while it landed. I really want to know what it is.
Signature: Hunter Austin

Green Darner
Green Darner

Dear Hunter,
This is an exciting posting for us.  This is a Dragonfly known as a Green Darner.  They are strong fliers and they migrate, and we seem to recall reading somewhere that they are sometimes attracted to lights at night, which causes us to speculate if they might also travel by night.
  Opinicon Natural History has a page entitled Observations of Dragonflies Visiting Lights at Night where it states:  “Dragonflies (order Odonata, suborder Anisoptera) and normally diurnal. However some dragonflies are active by night. This is particularly true of long distance migrants that travel over open water where they cannot roost so must continue to fly even after dark ….  Reports of nocturnal adult dragonfly activity appear to be relatively scarce, especially with regard to North American species.”

Letter 24 – Hatchling Dragonfly Naiad, we believe

 

Subject: Classification
Location: East Central Texas
April 24, 2015 11:57 pm
I need help identifying this organism. This image is under 40x magnification under a microscope. It was pulled from a pond in East Central Texas, and appeared to be sucking water through its anus as a way over breathing in the water.
Signature: Kendrick

Hatchling Dragonfly Naiad
Hatchling Dragonfly Naiad

Dear Kendrick,
This appears to be a very young, perhaps recently hatched, Dragonfly Naiad.  There are many types of flying insects like Dragonflies, Damselflies, Stoneflies and Mayflies that have aquatic nymphs that are known as Naiads.  The water action that you observed is nicely explained by Charles Hogue in his excellent book Insects of the Los Angeles Basin:  “Human beings are latecomers in the use of jet propulsion.  by porcibly expelling water from its rectum, the dragonfly nymph can drive its body forward through the water at great speed.  This is an emergency method of locomotion that is employed principally to evade enemies.”

Letter 25 – Dragonfly: Female Skimmer, but which species???

 

Subject: Needham’s Skimmer or Golden-Winged Skimmer?
Location: Jupiter, Florida
April 5, 2016 11:09 am
Greetings from Palm Beach County, Florida. This female dragonfly stopped to watch my volunteers remove trash from Pine Glades Natural Area in Jupiter, Florida. Since she didn’t seem to mind the group of people picking up beer bottles and plastic bags from around her perch, I snapped a few photos. Once I downloaded the pictures I was amazed by the beauty of this insect! In trying to nail down a name for this bug, I found two possible choices: Needham’s Skimmer or Golden-Winged Skimmer. I’m hoping you can tell me which one she is. As always, your web site is outstanding – I use it just about every day.
Signature: Ann Mathews – Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management

Female Skimmer
Female Skimmer

Hi Ann,
Thanks so much for the compliment.  Your image is positively gorgeous, but we often have difficulty with Dragonfly identifications, especially female Dragonflies.  The Needham’s Skimmer,
Libellula needhami, pictured on BugGuide looks like a good match, and the Golden Winged Skimmer, Libellula auripennis, pictured on BugGuide also looks close.  Perhaps one of our readers with more experience identifying Dragonflies will be able to provide a conclusive ID with justification.  According to BugGuide, the Golden Winged Skimmer is “Very similar, if not indistinguishable in the field, from Needham’s Skimmer. The latter is restricted to the coastal southeastern United States. ”  Of Needhams’s Skimmer, BugGuide remarks:  “Males are best separated from male Golden-Wings by redder face and body, along with brown lower hindlegs and less orange wings. Female and juvenile male Needham’s best separated from Golden-Wings by lateral thoracic pattern, augmented by the two-toned costa.”

Thanks for posting my picture of the Needham’s or Golden Winged skimmer. I hope someone can nail down her identity. Then again, she might like to remain mysterious and keep some secrets to herself! As always, kudos to the team at What’s That Bug for bringing the fascinating world of bugs to people all over the world.
Ann Mathews

Letter 26 – Male Emerald Darner

 

Subject: Dragonfly
Location: Seaside
July 26, 2016 8:42 am
Can you identify which kind of dragonfly this is and also if it is male or female? Just curious really. Found this beauty on the deck in Seaside.
Signature: Cat

Emerald Darner, we believe
Emerald Darner, we believe

Dear Cat,
Where is the seaside?  The Jersey Shore?  Miami Beach?  Australia?  The south of France???  The claspers on the tip of the abdomen indicates this is a male Dragonfly.  You can find information on sexing Dragonflies on Odes for Beginners.  If this is a North American sighting, this might be an Mosaic Darner in the genus
Aeshna based on BugGuide images.

Letter 27 – Green Darner from Canada

 

Subject:  What kind of Dragonfly
Geographic location of the bug:  Mississauga, Ont. Canada
Date: 09/11/2018
Time: 04:55 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Just found out about your website this week……this photo was taken back in 2015 in my backyard……nobody I know has ever seen one before…..
How you want your letter signed:  GB

Green Darner

Dear GB,
As you can see from this BugGuide image, your Dragonfly is a Green Darner.  According to BugGuide:  “Thorax unmarked bright green in both sexes.”

Letter 28 – Green Darner resting on Marijuana

 

Subject:  What’s this bug??
Geographic location of the bug:  East Los Angeles
Date: 09/28/2021
Time: 07:51 AM PDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Look at this guy! I think it’s high.
How you want your letter signed:  Dr. Greenthumb

Green Darner

Hey Dr. Greenthumb,
This awesome Dragonfly is a Green Darner.  There are many images of the male Green Darner using his anal claspers to grab the female by the neck during mating on the Natural History of Orange County website.  Dragonflies frequently rest on foliage, and your marijuana plant may have been the most convenient location for this individual to rest.  As to whether it got high, we cannot say, but we would never discount the possibility.

Letter 29 – Female Blue Dasher

 

Subject: Female Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)
Location: Naperville, IL
August 21, 2012 9:46 pm
Hi Daniel~
I do believe this is a female blue dasher, from its appearance, its prevalence in Illinois, and its habit of perching, flying away, and then returning to the exact spot to perch again, which I understand is common of skimmers in the Libellulidae family of dragonflies. This seems to be the time of year when dragonflies abound in these parts.
All the best!
Signature: -Dori Eldridge

Female Blue Dasher

Hi Dori,
It is always a pleasure getting your lovely photos.  We agree that this appears to be a female Blue Dasher and it is a perfect match to this image on BugGuide.  The description from BugGuide is:  “A small blue dragonfly with a white face, a black tip to the abdomen, and a black-and-yellow-striped thorax. Females are recognized by the narrow yellow parallel stripes on the abdomen. Both sexes have an amber patch at the base of each hindwing. Males develop a sky-blue (or Carolina-blue) abdomen when they approach maturity.”  Your close-up provided an excellent view of the white face.

Female Blue Dasher

Letter 30 – Gray Petaltail

 

Dragonfly or Damselfly
May 21, 2010
I photographed this specimen on my deck railing today. He was very large, probably 4″, and has a very interesting black and white geometric pattern. Can you identify? Thanks.
Joe
North Georgia (Appalachian Mountains)

Gray Petaltail

Hi Joe,
Dragonfly identifications can be very challenging for us, but we quickly identified your Gray Petaltail, Tachopteryx thoreyi, on BugGuide which has this comment:  “Rather elusive, but can be easy to find in the proper habitat. Often perches on odonate watchers.

Letter 31 – Great Blue Skimmer and Kind Words

 

Subject:  You’re back!!!
Geographic location of the bug:  Jacksonville, Florida
Date: 04/08/2021
Time: 04:10 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I’m so glad you’re back online!  You/your website has brought a lot of joy to me and my family over the years.  I’ve really missed seeing the new ID requests and learning about so many insects.  Hope you and yours are all doing well.  Here’s a nice local dragonfly (Jax, FL) since I have to upload an image for you to get this message.
How you want your letter signed:  Mike

Great Blue Skimmer

Dear Mike,
Thank you so much for your kind words.  Daniel is committed to posting again on a regular basis, however he no longer wants to post images of things people pull from their noses, or out of focus images of spiders they squash.  We really want to concentrate on posting letters that share our own wonder with the world of things that crawl.  We want to stimulate peoples’ appreciation with the natural world and to calm their fear of things they don’t understand.  That said, your image of what we believe to be a male Great Blue Skimmer, based on this BugGuide image, is a marvelous addition to our archives.

Letter 32 – Male Neon Skimmer visits What’s That Bug?

 

Subject:  Flame Skimmer rests on tomato cages
Geographic location of the bug: Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
Date: 06/24/2021
Time: 11:04 AM PDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Readers,
As Daniel’s final days as a full time college professor near an end, he is easing into retirement, including spending large portions of the day in the yard just puttering around and observing the wealth of wildlife, including numerous insects.  As the years pass, patterns begin to emerge and species begin to make their annual appearances, somewhat on schedule.  For years, Daniel has observed Dragonflies in his yard that he thought were Flame Skimmers, but thanks to this BugGuide description, he now believes they have been Neon Skimmers which means updating numerous old postings with the corrections.  Though originally identified as Flame Skimmers, Daniel now believes he has been observing both male Neon Skimmers and female Neon Skimmers near the stagnant fountain that serves as a nursery for the naiads, the Dragonfly nymphs that live in the fountain and eat the mosquitoes.

Male Neon Skimmer

Daniel suspects this beauty recently metamorphosed into a winged adult.  It was not at all shy, allowing Daniel to get quite close with his magicphone to capture a series of images, but in this final shot, the Neon Skimmer rotated its head, very much aware that Daniel was staking it with the camera, but it did not fly off for nearly an hour.

 

Letter 33 – Male Pale Snaketail

 

Subject: Male Pale Snaketail
Location: Grand Teton, Wyoming
August 22, 2013 4:15 pm
Dear Daniel~
Based upon coloration and range data, I believe I’ve identified this dragonfly (in Grand Teton National Park) as a male Pale Snaketail. Comparing it with the one on your site, it looks to be the same. would you agree? Thanks so much!
Signature: Dori Eldridge

Male Pale Snaketail
Male Pale Snaketail

Hi Dori,
Thanks for you wonderful image of possibly a male Pale Snaketail,
Ophiogomphus severus, which looks like the individuals posted to BugGuide.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

19 thoughts on “Dragon Fly: All You Need to Know – Expert Insights and Fun Facts”

  1. Actually, these mites are parasitic larvae of a water mite species, probably in the genus Arrhenurus. Some species in this genus are specialists on odonates, others parasitize midges & mosquitoes. Water mites are related to the velvet mites and have the same life cycle, with a parasitic larva and free-living nymph and adult. – Barry

    Reply
  2. Good morning,

    If I may add a correction, the upper one is a male of Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicollis), which is well known to pray on insects of its own size, as well as for cannibalism, but in this case it’s rather a Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis).
    I hope this helps.

    Renaud, Switzerland

    Reply
  3. I JUST SAW ONE THIS MORNING, roaming the fields of the redlands in south Florida, in the Homestead zip code of 33031, if anybody’s tracking new sightings. Startling color, indeed!

    Reply
  4. A friend and I recently spotted a dragonfly of this color near a creek here in Texas. It was too fast to get a good photo of him but the color was amazing.

    Reply
  5. Agreed. The male E. simplicicollis is in the transition from immature to mature. Abdomen turns blue before the thorax.
    The P. longipennis shows a fair amount of smoky brown in the wings which is typical.

    Reply
  6. Hello,

    The molted dragonfly is actually a Globe Skimmer known as well as Wandering Glider (scient. name: Pantala flavescens), a species that have a huge range of distribution around the Globe and capable of covering great distances (some fly over Indian Ocean from India to Southeast Africa). They breed in places like rain pools and capable of developing from egg to adult within a month.
    That one is not yet o its mature colors but the tappered abdomen, back wings greatly expanded at its base as well as some features in wings veination is typical for it.

    Renaud

    Reply
  7. I wouldn’t worry about a dragonfly ever biting you. I’ve never heard of that happening and the only possible way is if you mishandle one and actually mash their face into your skin. Even then, only the larger species would probably even be able to break skin. I’ve walked in fields with hundreds of dragonflies darting around. Many even landed on me and I was never bitten once nor did one even attempt to.

    Reply
  8. I have been wondering whether the bug I found is a wasp or a fly because it is around 4 cm long and has fly like eyes but is completely black?!? I found it outside and I’m living in Hillarys WA Australia. Plz reply!

    Reply
  9. These Magenta or fuchsia Dragonflies are daily visitors in our pond in Northern Nicaragua. I am hoping to learn more about them. Ours are between 2.5 to three inches long and there about twenty flying over the water from about 10 Am to 3 PM.

    Reply

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