Pond Dragons

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Published on: Jul. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

that typically live in other parts of the country but occasionally turn up here. One theory on how they end up so far from home is that approaching storms blow them to new areas.

Dragonflies are insects in the order Odonata, a primitive order that has not changed much through time. Fossils exist of dragonflies that lived at the same time as dinosaurs, and they are similar to those we see today, although usually larger. Dragonflies have three body segments: head, thorax and abdomen. Their bulging eyes may be bright blue or green or multicolored. The wings and legs are attached to a thorax thick with the muscles needed to work them. Dragonfly abdomens are usually long and large enough to see the color patterns that help us identify different species.

Darners, emeralds and skimmers are the adult dragonflies typically associated with Missouri ponds. The darners are in the Aeshnidae family. These large dragonflies live in ponds or other standing water. Emeralds are in the Coduliidae family. These medium- or small-size dragonflies are found in ponds or lakes. Skimmers are in the Libellulidae family. We have more species of this family than any other, and most of them live in ponds or other standing water.

Darners are large colorful dragonflies. They are often the dragonflies you see earliest and latest in the season.

Common green darners, Anax junius, are often the first dragonflies to emerge each year and one of the last you see in the fall. You may see them flying over ponds, lakes and nearby fields. They are almost 3 inches long with about a 4-inch wingspan. If you look down on its head just in front of the eyes, you can see a bulls-eye pattern. The thorax is solid green. Newly emerged adults have a reddish abdomen. Older males will be blue with darker brown on the top of the abdomen, while the older females become green on the sides and brown on top.

These darners live throughout Missouri and the rest of the United States, and in many Canadian provinces and south into Mexico and Puerto Rico. Juveniles live in ponds and lakes of all sizes. They climb up plant stems at the water's edge to emerge as adults.

Adult common green darners often fly high, which makes for great dragonfly watching. In late summer and fall you may see them flying around yards or parks, far from water. This species migrates

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