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What Is a Green Darner Dragonfly?

By Ray Hawk
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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The Green Darner dragonfly is a member of the Odonata order of insect species in the family of Aeshnidae with the taxonomic name of Anax junius. They are one of the largest and most widespread varieties of dragonfly in the world, growing to be up to 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) long and living throughout the continents of North America and South America, as well as in the Caribbean islands of the West Indies such as Jamaica, and regions of Asia such as China and Japan. While a migratory insect, they take up to four years to reach maturity, then only survive for about a month-and-a-half as an adult. This is despite the fact that they are very capable fliers and predators of lifeforms both larger and smaller than themselves, such as mosquitoes, moths, and even small fish.

The most stunning characteristics of the Green Darner dragonfly are its capabilities while in flight. Because it has large compound eyes, it can see in nearly 360° around itself as it moves through the air. Its up to 4.5 inch (11.43 centimeter) wingspan also gives it the ability to travel at at a speed of 50 miles per hour (80.5 kilometers per hour). Each of the four wings on a Green Darner dragonfly can be operated independently, which allows it to hover over one spot like a helicopter and maneuver precisely while in flight.

Of about 5,200 species of dragonfly worldwide, the Green Darner dragonfly is one among only a few dozen species that have been shown to migrate like some song birds within North America do. They have been tracked by attaching tiny radio transmitters and shown to migrate during the period of August to November from southern Canada all the way across the US into Mexico. They also migrate north from March to June in swarms of hundreds of thousands, and seem to travel with hawks and the American kestrel, a type of falcon, that feed on small numbers of them en route.

Types of dragonflies have been detected in the fossil record back 285,000,000 years, which is twice as long as bird fossils go back in time; and though the Green Darner dragonfly is widespread throughout the world, they require wet climates to thrive and successfully migrate. This includes areas of lakes, streams, and thick vegetation that are breeding grounds for their main food sources of insects and small aquatic species. They are often referred to as mosquito hawks for their proficiency at catching the insects in flight. Even the larvae of the Green Darner dragonfly that take years to mature are predatory, feeding on fish eggs, frog tadpoles, and other small freshwater lifeforms.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Green Darner Dragonfly?

The Green Darner Dragonfly, Anax junius, is a large, striking insect known for its vibrant green thorax and blue abdomen in males, and green thorax and reddish abdomen in females. It's one of the most widespread dragonflies in North America and is recognized by its impressive size, with a wingspan reaching up to 7.6 cm (3 inches).

Where can you find Green Darner Dragonflies?

Green Darner Dragonflies are commonly found across North America, from Alaska and Canada down to Panama. They thrive in a variety of wetland habitats, including ponds, lakes, and marshes. These dragonflies are migratory, with some populations traveling from the northern United States to the southern states and Mexico.

What do Green Darner Dragonflies eat?

Green Darner Dragonflies are voracious predators, feeding on a wide array of insects such as mosquitoes, flies, and moths. Their hunting strategy involves catching prey mid-air with their legs. They play a crucial role in controlling insect populations, making them beneficial for natural ecosystems and human interests alike.

How do Green Darner Dragonflies reproduce?

Green Darner Dragonflies mate in flight, after which the female lays eggs on aquatic vegetation or in water. The eggs hatch into nymphs, which live underwater for several months to a few years, depending on environmental conditions. After growing through several molts, they emerge from the water and transform into adult dragonflies.

Are Green Darner Dragonflies endangered?

Currently, Green Darner Dragonflies are not considered endangered. They are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, indicating a stable population. However, like many species, they face threats from habitat loss, pollution, and climate change, which could impact their numbers in the future.

What is the significance of Green Darner Dragonflies in their ecosystems?

Green Darner Dragonflies are apex insect predators and play a vital role in maintaining the balance of their ecosystems. By preying on numerous insect species, they help control pest populations. Additionally, their migratory patterns contribute to nutrient cycling across different regions, and their presence indicates a healthy, biodiverse wetland environment.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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