I Spy…A Dragonfly

This was indeed the largest dragonfly that I’d ever seen! There it was, perched on my red mum perfectly still…so, I ran to grab my camera. I slowly approached, expecting it to fly away any second, but no. It stayed perfectly still. I snapped several shots & the creature never flinched. Just what was this amazing 4 winged flyer? I finally got my answer after comparing my photo to many others. The common name for this dragonfly is a “Green Darner”, in Latin…(Anax junius). They’re the largest (in size) & most abundant dragonfly in North America.

Description: They’re built for speed & endurance. With a wingspan of 5” & body of 3” this insect is a force to be reckoned with. The wings are clear with a noticeable, veined “net-like” pattern. While that may appear delicate & wimpy, they are VERY strong fliers. They have to be as darners are one of the migrating species of dragonflies. Where do they go….Florida of course! Flight speeds can range from as fast as 50 mph, providing they catch a good wind to ride on. On a good day, darners can fly for up to 85 miles. Males are territorial, especially after mating & can chase an intruder flying at 35 mph. Not only that, but darners can hover like a helicopter & carry prey larger than they are (wasps, butterflies other dragonflies). Another striking feature of the green darner is their large, brown, bulging eyes. With the shape & size of these eyes this creature is able to have almost 360 degree vision.

Life Cycle: Breeding takes place in swamps & ponds. Eggs are laid individually in or on aquatic vegetation. Because not ALL green darners migrate (similar to the Robins here in Michigan) once hatched, nymph development varies. Nymphs of non-migrating darners develop slowly spending a year or more underwater. They can survive under ice in winter to emerge as dragonflies in early summer. While nymphs of those that do migrate, develop in 3 months. These will emerge as fully grown dragonfiles in late summer. Then, they too will fly south & start the breeding cycle all over. Green darners spend most of their time in the larval/nymph stage & only 4 to 7 weeks in adult form. After migration & mating, they die.


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