Dragonfly Life Span: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

Dragonflies are fascinating insects known for their impressive flying abilities and captivating appearance. Their life cycle goes through three main stages: egg, nymph, and adult. In this article, we will discuss the life span and important aspects of each stage.

The first stage in a dragonfly’s life is the egg, which is typically laid in or near water. Once hatched, the aquatic nymphs, or larvae, will spend a significant portion of their lives feeding on various aquatic organisms such as small insects and even fish NC State Extension. These nymphs possess large eyes and demonstrate incredible adaptability to survive in their aquatic environment MDC Teacher Portal.

As dragonflies reach adulthood, they transform into well-known agile and fast-flying aerial predators. Adult dragonflies have a unique role in maintaining the ecosystem balance by feeding on abundant day-flying insects such as flies. This intricate life cycle makes dragonflies an essential part of their natural habitats.

Dragonfly Life Cycle

Egg Stage

Dragonflies begin their life cycle as eggs. Female dragonflies deposit their eggs on plants, either above or below the surface of the water. For example, some species might lay eggs on submerged aquatic plants, while others might lay them on floating vegetation. The egg stage typically lasts for a few weeks until the nymphs hatch. A few factors that affect the duration of this stage are:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Aquatic environment

Larval Stage

Once the eggs hatch, the dragonfly nymphs emerge and inhabit aquatic environments such as ponds and streams. Dragonfly nymphs possess some interesting features:

  • Six legs
  • Large eyes
  • Wing buds on the thorax
  • Gills inside the rectum for breathing

Nymphs are also voracious predators, feeding on small insects, worms, tadpoles, and even small fish. Throughout the larval stage, nymphs undergo several molts, shedding their exoskeleton (exuvia) as they grow. The duration of this stage varies among species and can range from several weeks to even up to four years.

Adult Stage

When the nymphs are ready to transition into adulthood, they crawl out of the water and molt one final time. Adult dragonflies possess characteristics that make them efficient hunters in a variety of environments:

  • Two pairs of wings
  • Extremely agile and fast flight
  • Bristly legs for catching prey

Adult dragonflies primarily feed on insects like mosquitoes, using their legs to scoop up their prey. Males and females can be distinguished by their abdomen colors, with males often having blue abdomens and females having reddish-brown ones. Males also possess unique structures on their abdomen for grasping females during mating.

During the adult stage, dragonflies focus on feeding, mating, and avoiding predators such as frogs and birds. The life span of an adult dragonfly ranges from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the species and environmental factors. Ponds and other aquatic habitats serve as both breeding grounds and hunting areas for adult dragonflies.

To summarise, the dragonfly life cycle can be broken down into three main stages:

Stage Characteristics Duration
Egg Stage Eggs are laid on plants above or below water, duration influenced by temperature and humidity Several weeks
Larval Stage Nymphs are aquatic predators and undergo several molts over their development Several weeks to up to four years (species dependent)
Adult Stage Adults are aerial hunters, focusing on feeding, mating, and avoiding predators A few weeks to a few months

Dragonfly Habitats and Environments

Dragonflies can be found in a variety of freshwater environments, ranging from ponds and lakes to streams and marshes. Here, we’ll explore their preferred habitats and discuss their role in these ecosystems.

Ponds and Lakes

  • Dragonflies often inhabit freshwater ponds and lakes, where they lay their eggs and spend the early stages of their lives as larvae or nymphs.
  • They search for food and shelter among the dense vegetation, like water lilies or submerged plants, that can be found in these environments.
  • Dragonfly larvae serve as a vital source of food for fish and birds in the pond ecosystems.
  • In turn, adult dragonflies help control mosquito populations by preying on their larvae.

Streams and Rivers

  • Dragonflies can also be found in flowing freshwater habitats like streams and rivers.
  • Typically, they prefer slower-moving sections of these bodies of water, where they can find shelter among rocks and boulders.
  • Dragonflies in these environments serve a similar role as in pond habitats, feeding on smaller insects and helping maintain a balanced ecosystem.

Marshes and Still Waters

  • Marshes, swamps, and still waters are also popular habitats for dragonflies.
  • They thrive in these areas because the slow-moving or stagnant water provides ample breeding sites and a rich source of prey.
  • Dragonflies in these ecosystems play a key role in controlling insect populations and serve as a food source for various fish and bird species.

In conclusion, dragonflies are vital for maintaining healthy ecosystems in a variety of freshwater habitats, from ponds to rivers and marshes.

Unique Adaptations

Wings and Flight

Dragonflies possess powerful wings and flight capabilities, allowing them to move swiftly and agilely. Their wings can:

  • Hover: Remain suspended in the air without moving
  • Artontatism: Adjust the wing angle for more efficient movement
  • Fly backwards and forwards: Change directions with ease

For example, the common green darner, found in North America and Canada, has a wingspan of 3 inches, allowing it to achieve top speeds.

Wingspan Flight Abilities Example Species
3 inches Hover, Artontatism, Fly backwards and forwards Common Green Darner

Vision

Dragonflies have large, compound eyes that give them a near 360-degree range of vision. This unique adaptation helps them:

  • Locate prey
  • Avoid obstacles
  • Detect predators

For instance, the order Odonata, which includes dragonflies and damselflies, can spot flying insects within their range of vision.

Feeding and Hunting Habits

Dragonflies have highly efficient feeding and hunting habits. A few features include:

  • Bristly legs: Helps them capture and hold onto prey
  • Sharp mandibles: Enables them to consume a variety of arthropods

In comparison, butterflies have more specialized feeding structures, such as a proboscis, which limits their diet to nectar. Dragonflies, on the other hand, have a broader diet, preying upon insects like spiders and flying insects, as well as small fish. They contribute to controlling insect populations, which benefits the ecosystem.

Development and Lifespan Factors

Temperature and Weather Influences

Temperature and weather play a significant role in the development and lifespan of dragonflies. For instance:

  • Warmer temperatures may accelerate their growth
  • Cold temperatures can delay development

Dragonflies are ectothermic, meaning their body temperature is influenced by the environment. Therefore, temperature fluctuations can impact emergence, breeding, and overall lifespan.

Predators and Mortality

Dragonflies face numerous predators throughout their lives, such as:

  • Frogs
  • Spiders
  • Birds

High mortality rates in the nymph stage contribute to shorter lifespans, as predator threats affect their ability to reach adulthood and reproduce successfully. Additionally, newly emerged dragonflies, called tenerals, are particularly vulnerable since they haven’t developed their full strength and coloration.

Life Stage Predators
Nymph (Aquatic) Fish, frogs, water beetles
Teneral (Newly emerged) Spiders, birds, larger insects
Adult Birds, spiders, other dragonflies

Reproduction and Mating

Reproduction and mating are crucial factors that can influence a dragonfly’s lifespan. Key points include:

  • Males compete for territory to attract females
  • Females lay eggs in or near water

Dragonflies exhibit complex mating rituals, and successful breeding can extend the species’ lifespan. However, the intense competition for mates and breeding sites can also result in injury and increased mortality.

In summary, a dragonfly’s lifespan is influenced by temperature and weather conditions, predator threats, and reproductive success. Keeping these factors in mind helps us understand the delicate balance of factors that contribute to their fascinating lives.

Dragonfly Species

North American Species

There are around 300-350 species of dragonflies in the United States. They are known for being colorful insects with a variety of patterns and colors. Some examples include:

  • Common Green Darner: A large, strikingly bold green and blue dragonfly.
  • Blue Dasher: A small, agile species with a blue body and green eyes.

Tropical Species

In tropical regions, dragonflies are generally more diverse, with thousands of species found worldwide. These species are often incredibly colorful, with some examples like:

  • Scarlet darter: This bright red dragonfly is commonly found in Asia and Africa.
  • Blue-tailed forest hawk: A stunning turquoise and black species found in Southeast Asia.

Temperate Species

In temperate areas, dragonfly species can be less colorful but still display a range of patterns and colors. Examples include:

  • Four-spotted chaser: A small, brown dragonfly with distinctive dark spots on its wings.
  • Golden-ringed dragonfly: A large species with black and yellow striped body markings.
North American Tropical Temperate
Colorfulness Medium High Low-Medium
Diversity Moderate High Moderate
Examples Blue Dasher Scarlet Darter Four-Spotted Chaser

To recap, dragonflies are a diverse group of colorful insects found in various habitats:

  • North American species are moderately colorful and diverse.
  • Tropical species boast a higher level of diversity and vivid coloration.
  • Temperate species are less colorful but still display diverse patterns and markings.

Cultural and Scientific Significance

Dragonflies play an important role in both cultural and scientific realms. In literature, they often symbolize courage and transformation due to their unique biology and metamorphosis from aquatic larvae to aerial adults.

In science, dragonflies are a focus of research in areas like migration and habitat. They have been studied extensively in North America and Canada, providing valuable insights into their life cycles and feeding habits.

Part of the Order Odonata, they share similarities with damselflies, but possess key differences in wing appearance and flight behavior:

Dragonflies Damselflies
Wings Unequal in size and shape Almost equal in size and shape
Resting Position Wings held open Wings held closed
Flight Agile and fast Slower and weaker

Dragonflies can be found in various environments, including temperate regions and tropical areas. Their presence often indicates a healthy ecosystem, as they are sensitive to water quality and pollution.

Notable features of dragonflies include:

  • Large, multifaceted eyes for exceptional vision
  • Six legs with bristles for capturing prey
  • Two pairs of strong wings for agile flight

Dragonflies serve as an important part of their ecosystems with both pros and cons. Some beneficial aspects include:

  • Predatory nature helps control insect populations, such as mosquitoes and flies
  • Indication of good water quality and overall ecosystem health

On the downside, dragonflies can also be:

  • Prey for birds, frogs, and other larger predators, potentially causing their own numbers to fluctuate
  • Invasive to certain habitats, causing issues for native species

In conclusion, dragonflies hold significant cultural and scientific value due to their unique biology, ecological role, and symbolism. Through ongoing research and conservation efforts, we continue to learn more about these fascinating insects and their place in our world.

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 – Unknown Dragonfly from Florida

 

Dragonfly in Central Florida
Location: Central Florida
February 6, 2012 11:28 am
I found this dragonfly (two photos of two different dragonflies that I believe are the same species) in Central Florida. I believe at least one is from Orlando Wetlands Park, just East of Orlando.
Signature: Scott

Unknown Dragonfly

Dear Scott,
The past two mornings we have looked at your lovely photographs and alas, since we needed to get to work, we hadn’t the time to attempt an identification.  Long work hours have prohibited us from doing the research in the evenings.  We have decided to just post your letter and photographs as an unidentified Dragonfly in the hopes one of our readers can take the time to identify the species.  Dragonflies pose a particular challenge for our unscientifically trained staff.

Unknown Dragonfly

 

Letter 2 – Unidentified Dragonfly, possibly Blue Dasher

 

Dragonfly IDs
What a pleasure to find your site after searching through minute pictures that have no details. Here are two that I would love to have IDed. (Actually, now that I look at them closely, they are probably the same dragonfly).
Thanks,
Diana

Hi Diana,
We don’t recognize this beauty and sadly, haven’t the time to research right now. Try www.bugguide.net and if you find something, please write back.

Ed. Note: We started to feel like slackers, so we searched. We think, possibly, this is a female Blue Dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis.

Letter 3 – Swamp Darner

 

Hero Swamp Darner?
Hello! My name is Sarah-Ellen Leonard and I’ve been checking your site daily for about 6 months now. The volume of information is impressive, as is your ability to give feedback so rapidly. You have helped me with mealybug infestations and calmed my fears about cicada killers. I haven’t had anything to send in until now: a hero swamp darner, if I have read your site correctly. My coworker here at the University of Illinois found him/her on the sidewalk this morning. He/she is almost exactly 3″ long (sorry for the lack of size reference in the photo!) and occasionally twitches in a feeble fashion. I’m afraid this lovely creature may well be a goner. I just thought a nice image of those lovely eyes would be a worthy addition to your site. Thanks for everything!
Sarah-E

Hi Sarah-E,
Thank you for your kind words of support. We believe you have correctly identified this Swamp Darner, Epiaeschna heros. There are many images on BugGuide to support this identification. While it is sad your specimen will soon expire, at least you got a wonderful photograph of a magnificent insect.

It’s Edible: Sky Prawn
(05/01/2008) Edibility update: dragonflies
Hi Daniel,
Happy May Day. Gorgeous photo of that swamp darner. Not so long ago dragonflies were a popular food in Indonesia, where they’re known as ‘sky prawn.’ They’re eaten in both nymph and adult forms, but the former must be cooked because it may be a transitory host of a liver fluke. In old Japanese folklore dragonflies are the steeds of dead spirits.
Dave
www.slshrimp.com

Letter 4 – Two Dragonflies: Roseate Skimmer and Red Saddlebags

 

Dragonfly
Hi,
Through your website, I found my way to the bugguide and the excellent Texan Odonata site. So I could identify at least the better quality photos of Sundays trip to Aqua caliente, our oasis in Tucson, AZ. Here are two of them. While I’m at it, a lot of your palo verde root borers look either dead or very out of place – I just took this one, maybe you can use it.
Margarethe

Roseate Skimmer Red Saddlebags

Hi again Margarethe,
Both of your dragonfly photos are gorgeous. We have to admit, we often don’t have the patience or skill to properly identify Dragonfly species, so we are thankful you did the work for us. Thanks again for the photos of the Roseate Skimmer, Orthemis ferruginea, and Red Saddlebags, Tramea onusata.

Letter 5 – Swamp Darner

 

Mosaic or hero darner?
September 3, 2009
At first I thought it was a low plane, but it was just this injured dragonfly. I’m guessing it’s a mosaic darner; it didn’t last long after it landed on the garden hose. The wingspan was a bit over 5 1/4 inches-pretty huge.
dexter
southeastern LI, NY, USA

Darner
Swamp Darner

Dear Dexter,
There are people out there far more qualified than we are to correctly identify your Darner.  Hopefully, someone will write in with an identification.

Darner
Swamp Darner

Update from Eric Eaton
September 6, 2009
Daniel:
I believe the “unknown darner” is a “swamp darner,” Epiaeschna heros, one of the largest dragonflies in North America and a great find.  Nice images of it, too!
Eric

Letter 6 – Young Male Eastern Pondhawk and Great Blue Skimmer

 

Eastern Pondhawks
Location:North Middle Tennessee
July 30, 2010 5:23 pm
Hi Daniel,
I saw this green dragonfly about a week ago but couldn’t get to my camera in time for a photo. I was pleased this morning to see it again while I had the camera. After looking at your website and bug guide I think it is an ”Eastern Pondhawk” I read the males are blue. This afternoon while stalking a wild mosquito this ”blue guy” came by and said, ”Hey Richard take my photograph.” Of course, I was happy to do so. Thanks for everything and have a great day.
Richard

Young Male Eastern Pondhawk

Hi Richard,
First we need to ask if you are resubmitting this request.  We spent a goodly portion of the day earlier in the week trying to find an email titled Pondhawk to no avail.  There is so much email for us to choose from that many requests go unanswered as we do not have the resources to respond to every query.  You identification of the green specimen as an Eastern Pondhawk,
Erythemis simplicicollis, seems correct in our opinion.  According to BugGuide:  “Females and young males are green with square blackish spots on the abdomen.”  We do not believe your second specimen is an Eastern Pondhawk, though the coloration superficially resembles that of a mature male described on BugGuide as:  “pruinose blue with white claspers and a green face.”  The face in your photo does not appear to be green and the claspers are not white.  We will try to get a conclusive identification on the second specimen, though Dragonflies often present a major challenge for us.

Great Blue Skimmer

No Sir, This was my first request, the photos were taken just yesterday. I do realize you are very busy and if one of my requests go unanswered I just figure it didn’t make the “cut.”  Thank you so much for your replies to many of  my ID requests. Have a wonderful day.
Richard

Thanks Richard,
We feel bad about the other request since we tried unsuccessfully to locate it.  We advise our readership that is they do not get a response after a week, to try again by resubmitting the letter and images.  A followup question with no photo attached does not help us because then we still need to search old mail to match the two letters together, and that is just too time consuming.  Our limited time devoted to posting letters is better spent researching responses than trying to piece together identification requests.

Hi Daniel,
I did some more searching for an ID on the blue dragonfly. Could it be a “Blue Dasher”?

Hi again Richard,
There are spots midway on each of your specimen’s wings that are absent in the Blue Dasher,
Pachydiplax longipennis (see BugGuide), so we don’t believe your specimen is a Blue Dasher.

Update: August 9, 2010
Karl provided a comment that the unidentified Dragonfly is probably a Great Blue Skimmer,
Libellula vibrans, and the photo matches the images on BugGuide.

Letter 7 – What's That Dragonfly

 

Pantala flavescens?
Location: Hawthorne, CA
July 28, 2011 2:55 pm
I think I have this beauty correctly identified. Will you please confirm?
Signature: Thanks, Anna Carreon

Globe Skinner, Anna believes

Hi Anna
Just today we were asked by a journalist named Marian with High Country News which insect order gives us the most difficult time with identifications.  Without even flinching we blurted out Dragonflies.  They are sexually dimorphic, meaning the generally drabber females often look nothing like the males.  Additionally, the males go through color transformations between the time they first emerge and the time they are fully sexually mature.  We are not going to research your request tonight, but we are posting your letter and photo.  We will give this our best shot tomorrow.  The lighting and detail on the profile shot are stunning.

Globe Skimmer, according to Anna

Letter 8 – Swamp Darner we believe

 

dragonfly
Location: Maumelle, Arkansas
May 11, 2012 7:26 am
Hi Gentle teacher,
Last night this dragonfly was attracted to my porch light in Central Arkansas. This morning, he was on my back door, waiting for my camera. After a few minutes of pictures, his wings started moving, he washed his face and off he flew. What is he?
Signature: Martha

Possibly Swamp Darner

Hi Martha,
In our opinion, this looks like a Swamp Darner, Epiaeschna heros, or a closely related species.  According to BugGuide:  “An impressive dragonfly of southern wetlands.”

Head of a Swamp Darner

 

Letter 9 – Swarming Green Darners at Corralitas Red Car Property

 

Subject:  Swarming Dragonflies
Location:  Corralitas Red Car Property, Silver Lake, Los Angeles, California
July 15, 2014 10:30 AM
This morning we accepted an invitation to walk the Corralitas Red Car Property with community activist Diane Edwardson and we evaluated the merits of preserving the site as open space.  A large Tarantula Hawk was flying about lazily and then we saw some of the California Harvester Ants that Diane observed swarming about a month ago, but the real treat was seeing a large swarm of Dragonflies circling an endangered California Walnut Tree.  They did not appear to be feeding or mating, and there were at least 50 large Dragonflies in a small bit of air space.   Though we could not get a clear image of a static individual, the large size and overall green coloration has led us to speculate that the Dragonflies are Green Darners.

Swarming Green Darners
Swarming Green Darners

In researching this behavior we learned that the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences states:  ” Dragonflies swarm for two reasons.  Dragonflies are predators so if there is abundant food in the area, i.e. lots of small flying insects such as mosquitoes or other flies, a swarm may form in the same area.  In these static swarms, the dragonflies fly back and forth over a specific, well-defined area, eating the small flying insects within that space.  Dragonflies also migrate, so you might see large groups of them flying together in a single direction, either to escape poor local conditions (dry, very hot) or to seek warmer regions in the fall.  Migratory swarms can contain several million dragonflies and travel thousands of miles!”  Though we did not observe any prey, we can only presume that smaller swarming insects were providing food for this magnificent aerial display.  More information on swarming Dragonflies can be found on BayNature.

Swarming Green Darners
Swarming Green Darners

 

Letter 10 – Swamp Darner attacked by European Hornet

 

Subject: Swamp Darner attacked by hornet
Location: Rochester, NY
August 10, 2015 1:51 pm
Hi!
While trying to identify the dragonfly in my picture I came across this post of yours:
2009/09/03/european-hornet-eats-dragonfly-unknown-darner/
and the comments led me to correctly identify the dragonfly as a Swamp Darner, as it is identical to the photos and descriptions on BugGuide, here: http://www.bugguide.net/node/view/2584 The dragonfly pictured was easily 4-5 inches in length.
I believe the attacker may be a European Hornet, as it look very similar to the insect in the original post?
I took this photo August 8th in Rochester, NY. I noticed a loud buzzing and the sound of the dragonfly hitting the glass door several times as he valiantly attempted to keep flying and fend off his attacker. The efforts became more feeble and the hornet appeared to be crawling around going straight for the underside of the thorax. The dragonfly kept curling his abdomen, but after several minutes he seemed pretty much gone, and I could have sworn I heard crunching- the hornet eating his prize.
It was a pretty incredible sight; the kids I was babysitting had very different reactions. The 9 year old, “it’s probably laying eggs in the dragonfly,” and walked away unconcerned. The 2 year old kept trying to go touch it and seemed very concerned for the dragonfly’s well-being.
I thought you might appreciate the picture. Sorry it’s captioned; it’s the only one I had time to get while keeping a 2 year old away from touching!
Signature: Jamie

Swamp Darner attacked bt European Hornet
Swamp Darner attacked bt European Hornet

Hi Jamie,
Your image is an excellent documentation of this Food Chain scenario, but your written account of the observation is especially interesting.  We agree the predator is a European Hornet, and the long term effect that these top of the Food Chain introduced Invasive Exotic predators is having on the native insect population like this Swamp Darner may or may not be significant.

Letter 11 – Swamp Darner

 

Subject: Crazy Colors!
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
April 23, 2016 1:43 pm
This fella showed up today and I was astounded by it’s nearly day-glow green and blazing red striping. Beautiful to the point of almost appearing fake. Then I started wondering if dragonflies, like so many other animals, go through color changes or become more colorful in mating season…if there is a mating season for dragonflies, that is.
Signature: Thanks!

Swamp Darner, we believe
Swamp Darner, we believe

We believe we have correctly identified your Dragonfly as a Darner, more specifically, a Swamp Darner, Epiaeschna heros, based on this BugGuide image.  The red face is evident in this BugGuide image.  According to BugGuide, they are found near  “Shaded ponds, streams, swamps, temporary pond” and they are active “February to November in Florida, June to September in northernmost part of range” and that “Females oviposit in a variety of sites, in mud, in stems, or in mud of dried-up ponds.”  Some Dragonflies change color as adults, often with the males getting brighter with age.

How cool! Thank for the knowledge !

Letter 12 – Springtime Darner

 

Subject: Dragonfly
Location: Northwest PA
June 17, 2017 11:05 am
I want to call this a Common Green Darner but just doesn’t seem right.
Signature: Glenn

Springtime Darner

Hi Glenn,
While this is a Darner, it is not a Green Darner.  We believe this is a Mosaic Darner in the genus
Aeshna based on BugGuide images, but alas, we do not have the confidence to provide a species identification.  Perhaps one of our readers who is more skilled at Dragonfly identifications will write in with a comment to identify the species.

Correction:  June 22, 2017
After posting, we received a comment from Richard indicating this is a Springtime Darner.  Here is a similar BugGuide image.  According to BugGuide:  “Males have brown thorax with two relatively straight yellow lateral thoracic stripes. Eyes generally blue. Abdomen spotted with blue. Female similar but abdominal spots may be blue or green.”

Springtime looks good based on some of the other pictures I see there.
Glenn

Letter 13 – Some Dragonflies from Hungary

 

Subject:  Dragonflies
Geographic location of the bug:  Hungary
Date: 03/05/2019
Time: 10:20 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I am giving a talk on Monday and would like to include the attached photographs but have been unable to identify the species as I have found most of the websites unhelpful.
You have been very helpful in the past and I would much appreciate your assistance.
How you want your letter signed:  William Smiton

Mating Dragonflies

Dear William,
Are you from Hungary or did you take these gorgeous images while on holiday?  Do you speak Hungarian?  Which sites did you not find helpful?  We did a web search for the order Odonata and Hungary and quickly found szitakotok, a site dedicated to Hungarian Dragonflies.  The site is difficult to navigate, and it loads slowly, but it seems quite comprehensive.  Did you check that site?

Dragonfly

Your third image reminds us of the North American Common Whitetail, so we decided to see if there were any members on szitakotok from the genus Plathemis, but there are not.  Perhaps one of our readers who is adept at Dragonfly identification will provide input.  Perhaps if you have not yet checked szitakotok, you will have luck self-identifying.  Please let us know if you determine any identities.

Dragonfly

I’m from Northern Ireland and took the photos on a birdwatching trip. I’ve tried various websites including the one you recommend but it doesn’t identify the dragonflies in the photographs. Daniel has been very helpful in the past so hope to hear from him.

Letter 14 – Unidentified Dragonfly from Vietnam is Common Picturewing

 

Subject:  Dragonfly
Geographic location of the bug:  Hanoi, Vietnam
Date: 05/09/2019
Your letter to the bugman:  I have just sent an ID request for an Italian dragonfly, and then recalled that I had still not been able to put a name to one I found in VN.  I could not get any info from people I knew there and couldn’t track it in the web either.
I would be very grateful if you could put me out of my misery. :-))
Regards
How you want your letter signed:  Fof

Dragonfly:  possibly Common Picturewing

Dear Fof,
We located a Dragonflies and Damselflies of Vietnam site, but we are currently out of the office, battling a very slow internet in Ohio, and we are frustrated with the organizational structure of the site, but you might be able to locate your individual by carefully scrutinizing the site.  We also located the Stamp Mall site where there is a beautiful set of 1977 Dragonfly stamps from Vietnam, and the seventh stamp appears similar to your individual, but we cannot read Vietnamese.

Update:  Thanks to a comment from Cesar Crash, we agree this looks very similar to Rhyothemis variegata imperatrix.  According to iNaturalist, the species is known as the Common Picturewing.  Island.f3 has some images from Okinawa.  Odonata.jp also has some very good images.  Online images indicate this is a highly variable species that has varying degrees of transparency in the markings on its wings.

Letter 15 – Spangled Skimmer

 

spangled skimmer
Location: Andover, New Jersey
July 3, 2011 11:18 am
This gorgeous dragonfly had me stumped. Although I live in northwestern New Jersey, I use Kurt Mead’s excellent Dragonflies of the North Woods as my field guide; there’s just no good dragonfly book for the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic. So at first, I thought this slaty-blue d’fly was a slaty skimmer. But then I realized, with some creative googling, that this species with stigma both black and white is a spangled skimmer, Libellula cyanea, a species not in Mead’s book. The white part of the stigma causes this d’fly to have a lovely shimmering quality to its flight.
Signature: Jean LeBlanc

Spangled Skimmer

Hi Jean,
Thanks for doing the laborious research toward identifying this male Spangled Skimmer.  Upon checking BugGuide, we agree with your identification.  We are especially appreciative because we know how challenging Dragonfly identification can be, because of sexual dimorphism as well as intermediary coloration patterns of adults.  Though we have not seen it, if Jeffrey Glassberg’s book Dragonflies Through Binoculars North America is half as good as the Butterflies Through Binoculars books he has written, it is well worth the expense.

Letter 16 – Tule Bluet eats Fly

 

Subject: Tule Bluet with side of flies
Location: Hardwick, New Jersey
August 4, 2017 11:42 am
Thought you might enjoy these photos of a Tule Bluet dining on some sort of fly (I think). Not sure if there is enough of the fly visible in this shot to identify it. The bluet is about 1.5 inches long, which gives you a context for the size of the fly.
Happy bugging!
Signature: Deborah Bifulco

Tule Bluet eats Fly

Dear Deborah,
As always, your images of this feasting Damselfly are gorgeous and an excellent addition to our Food Chain tag.  We believe, because of the long legs, that the prey is either a Crane Fly in the infraorder Tipulomorpha or a Long Legged Fly in the family Dolichopodidae.  The Long Legged Flies, according to BugGuide, are found in “Lightly shaded areas near swamps and streams, in meadows and woodlands” so their habitat is about the same as the Tule Bluet which is pictured on BugGuide.

Tule Bluet eats Fly

Letter 17 – Two Blue Dasher Females from Ohio

 

Color Variation in Female Blue Dashers
Location: Ottawa Wetlands, N. Ohio
June 28, 2011 9:48 am
Dear Bugman:
Thought you might be able to use these Blue Dasher close-ups, which show color variation in the females.
While visiting the Ottawa wetlands in N.Ohio, I recently took many photos of Blue Dasher dragonflies. This species was very cooperative & calm and did not fly away the moment I approached; great photo subjects.
I noticed that while many females had the typical brown and yellow patterned abdomen, others had abdomens that were blue…like the males. At first I thought I was mistaken in the ID of the blue tailed Blue Dasher females. Just this morning, I read in an article online, that older females will take on a blue color as they age. Never knew this before, and that info. solved the mystery of why these females came in two color varieties. Anyway, just thought I’d share my latest ”discovery” with your wonderful and informative site.
Signature: Christine

Blue Dasher

Dear Christine,
Your photos are positively gorgeous, as are the Dragonflies you have photographed.  We have a very difficult time identifying Dragonflies, and we are very appreciative that you took the initiative to identify your Blue Dashers.

Blue Dasher

Letter 18 – Two Skimmers: Slaty Skimmer and Widow Skimmer

 

Please name these dragonflies!
August 11, 2009
I found these battered bugs along a dusty south Kansas roadside in early August.
The slender one looks somewhat like a meadowhawk, but its eyes are brown and its body blue-black.
The old warrior resembles a male widow skimmer, but lacks the white patches on the wings.
Can you identify them?
Digital Dave
East of Wichita, Kansas

Slaty Skimmer
Slaty Skimmer

Dear Digital Dave,
We have been spending the morning trying to post some recent Dragonfly identification requests after one reader wrote back with a week old request.  We remember opening your images on the last full day Mom was visiting, and she took precedence over posting letters.  We believe your slender dragonfly is a Slaty Skimmer, Libullela incesta, based on several images posted to BugGuide.  Based on this comment on BugGuide, we doubt that this is a threatened species:  “A common species, tolerant of moderately polluted suburban ponds and the like.
”  We agree that your second specimen is a Widow Skimmer, Libellula luctuosa.  According to BugGuide:  “Mature males have a large basal area of brown on each of the four wings, and each wing also has a whitish area roughly at the middle. Their brown bodies become increasingly pruinose (whitish) as they get older.  Females and immature males have the same brown wing bands as the mature males, but not the whitish areas. Wings usually have a brown tip. A dorsal view of the abdomen shows a brown band at center with a yellow stripe running along each side.”  That description would mean that this is a male in transition from immature to mature status.  Just because his wings are tattered, does not mean he is old.  He may have experienced some trauma, like escaping from a predator, that damaged his wings.  There is an image of a male Widow Skimmer on BugGuide that very nearly matches this coloration pattern.

Widow Skimmer
Widow Skimmer

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.

25 thoughts on “Dragonfly Life Span: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell”

  1. It seems to me that these images matches with the dragonflies in these pictures, but the page http://www.notesfromtheroad.com/about/dragonflies.html calls it Yellow-sided Skimmer (Libellula flavida) , while this one http://www.thehibbitts.net/troy/photo/odonata/7-10_June_2010.htm calls it Golden-winged Skimmer (Libellula auripennis). Yellow-sided Skimmer is in a little list below, but the photo’s name is golden-winged.skimmer, it seems to be a mystake for me.
    So, L flavida seems to be very close, I just can’t see the darker coloration in the tip of the wings.

    Reply
  2. Hi Daniel,
    I can confirm that indeed those swarms of dragonflies are continuing a few days later, I just wasn’t looking high enough. In the same area above the historic viaduct footings near Fletcher & Riverside, i saw one small swarm above the same tree we observed together on Tuesday. There were two other larger swarms one above a much larger Black Walnut, and one above the huge dead Eucalyptus trees that were recently trimmed – a good 60′ up. As if to confirm the feeding behavior of the Green Darners, my dog snapped at a couple of mosquitoes, I shooed a few off me too.

    There is quite a bit of standing water on Riverside Drive between Fletcher & Glendale Blvd. While it’s great we’ve got natural pest control going on here – people should check their yards for standing water and break the mosquito breeding cycle.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the update Diane. Green Darners are one of the species of Dragonflies that migrate, and perhaps this swarming behavior is related to migration as well. According to the Xerces Society: “Dragonfly migration is one of the most fascinating events in the insect world, but also one of the least-known. This is even more surprising when you consider that dragonfly migration occurs on every continent except Antarctica.” According to the Minnesota Dragonfly Society: “Certain species of dragonfly migrate, either en masse or individually. Dragonflies follow weather fronts, fleeing cold fronts in the fall on their way south and chasing warm fronts in the spring when moving north. The best-known migrant is the Common Green Darner, who makes a one-way trip south in the fall and whose offspring makes the return one-way trip north the following spring.”

      Reply
  3. Hi Daniel,
    I can confirm that indeed those swarms of dragonflies are continuing a few days later, I just wasn’t looking high enough. In the same area above the historic viaduct footings near Fletcher & Riverside, i saw one small swarm above the same tree we observed together on Tuesday. There were two other larger swarms one above a much larger Black Walnut, and one above the huge dead Eucalyptus trees that were recently trimmed – a good 60′ up. As if to confirm the feeding behavior of the Green Darners, my dog snapped at a couple of mosquitoes, I shooed a few off me too.

    There is quite a bit of standing water on Riverside Drive between Fletcher & Glendale Blvd. While it’s great we’ve got natural pest control going on here – people should check their yards for standing water and break the mosquito breeding cycle.

    Reply
  4. We were out working n the river this past summer when a red damselfly lit on the windscreen in front of the helm (they and our local dragonflies are very friendly, often landing near or on you!). The driver was admiring it, putting his nose rather close when a bald face hornet swooped in and snipped off its head, carrying it away. He was quite taken aback on the one hand, while being rather impressed on the other. By the way, awesome site!

    Reply
  5. Yes, it’s definitely a Golden-winged Skimmer (Libellula auripennis). She’s very graceful and numerous where I live~~in the Southeast. I’ve photographed them many, many times.

    Reply
  6. At work today in Scottsmore, FL. I observed an all dark red dragonfly. I’ve never seen one like it before. Are they common in this area?

    Reply

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