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Pond Dragons

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Published on: Jul. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

live throughout the state and much of the eastern two-thirds of the United States, in some of the Canadian provinces and south into Mexico and Jamaica. Considered a ferocious dragonfly, eastern pondhawks occasionally eat one another. They land flat on plant leaves floating on the surface of a pond.

The blue dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis, is common around ponds. The males have blue abdomens, while the females are darker with pairs of golden dashes lined up on the top of the abdomen. Males have blue eyes, and females have brown eyes.

These dragonflies range from 1 to 2 inches long with wingspans of 2 to 3 inches.

The bright blue eyes of mature males makes them easy to spot as they fly near pond banks. If another male enters a blue dasher's territory it will raise its abdomen and fly towards the invader.

Blue dashers live throughout the state and most of the United States and in several Canadian provinces and several states in Mexico. These dragonflies perch on twigs near the water but fly high into the trees if they are disturbed.

Black saddlebags, Tramea lacerata, are high flying and wary dragonflies. One of our larger dragonflies, they often fly far away from the water, where the nymph lives. They are 2 inches long and have a wingspan that is just over 3 inches. The black band of color at the base of the wings is distinctive for this species. The edge of this band is jagged and follows the lines of some of the veins in the wing.

They live throughout Missouri and much of the United States, and in a few Canadian provinces and south into Mexico and Cuba. You can see them flying away from the water, including over roadways.

Pennants are small, colorful members of the skimmer family. You may see more than one species at the same pond. Pennants get their name from their habit of perching at the tips of plant stalks, reminding you of a small flag.

Halloween pennants, Celithemis eponina, are strikingly orange. These dragonflies have a dark band completely across the wing near their middle. They don't have dark color at the tip of the wing.

Calico pennants, Celithemis elisa, are slightly smaller and redder, and the dark band does not extend across the wing. Mature male calico pennants are red and females are orange.

Although they stay fairly close to the water, they are visible when they perch on the tips of plant stalks. Calico pennants are up to an inch long with a wingspan of just under 2 inches.

You also might encounter banded pennants, Celithemis fasciata. These have black wing markings similar to the calicos. Banded pennants are slightly larger, about an inch long with a wingspan of just under 3 inches.

Eastern amberwings, Perithemis tenera, are the smallest dragonflies we have in Missouri. They are just under an inch long with a wingspan of under an inch. Males have solid amber wings, while females have dark spots on their wings with just a little amber between the spots. Their bodies are thick and dark red with a subdued pattern. When they are resting, they blend into the background so well they are difficult to see. That is probably advantageous, because eastern amberwings often fall prey to other dragonflies.

Eastern amberwings inhabit the entire state and most of the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. They fly close to the surface of the water. If you see a male swaying from side to side as he flies behind a female, he is inviting her to the territory he is defending. If they mate, she returns to that site to lay her eggs.

Wandering gliders, Pantala flavescens, and spot-winged gliders, Pantala hymenaea, often fly together. You can distinguish spot-winged gliders by the spot at the base of the hind wing.

These dragonflies have tan to reddish bodies with a checkered pattern of lighter and darker colors on their abdomen. Wandering gliders travel worldwide; individuals have landed on ships at sea many miles from shore. Their 3-inch wingspan makes flying easier.

Adults seek temporary water, such as flooded crop fields and isolated pools left along rivers after floods, when they are ready to lay eggs.

Both gliders live throughout the state. The waters of the southeastern lowlands of Missouri produce uncountable thousands of these gliders in the warmer months.

Missouri's dragonflies are easy to spot at ponds and lakes. The more time you spend near water, the better your chances of glimpsing these insects. If you sit real still, some will fly close by or land near you, and you can study them up close.

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