This common, but beautiful, dragonfly is common through New Mexico and North America, migrating from the northern United States down into Texas, Mexico and Central America, accomplishing mating along the way. The long cylindrical abdomen resembles a darning needle, which is the reason for the common name. The darner is a large dragonfly, reaching over 3 inches in body length with a wingspan of over 4 inches. The Green Darner is found principally around water bodies, swamps, ponds, lakes, and slow flowing streams, providing suitable aquatic habitat for the nymphs and abundant flying insect prey for adults.

Females lay eggs on vegetation under the water in ponds. Development is referred to as “incomplete metamorphosis,” where eggs hatch in the water into nymphs. The nymphs are fast-swimming aquatic carnivores which feed on insects, amphibian tadpoles and even small fish. Nymphs go through several maturation stages over about three years.

In the final molt the larva will emerge from the water and position itself on a vertical plant where the back skin cracks open and the adult insect emerges. After about an hour the body and wings are fully formed and ready for flight. This period of adult emergence is the most vulnerable time in the dragonfly’s life and about 90% of mortality happens then, with birds and other predators taking the easy meal.

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Green darner dragonfly. Photo by James Taulman.

Adults are agile, fast-flying predators, capturing moths and butterflies, mosquitoes and other flying insects in flight, and even other dragonflies. The adults mate and females lay their eggs but the adult will only live one season, two to three months.

Photos taken by James Taulman on Flint Hills Nature Trail near Ottawa, Kansas. Nikon P510 camera.

James Taulman is a semi-retired research wildlife biologist, having worked with the U.S. Forest Service research branch and taught zoology, ecology, and other courses in several university positions. He is currently living in the East Mountains, and explores natural areas observing native wildlife and conducting independent research projects. Visit his Youtube channel to see more.