Dragonflies and damselflies belong to the order of Odonata. Within the Odonata order there are 8 mayor families of dragonflies in North America. The most popular and best known species are the Skimmers (Family of Libellulidae), which includes numerous Skimmers (Libellula), Whiteface (Leucorrhinia), Meadowhawks (Sympetrum), Saddlebags (Tramea), Pennants (Celithemis). Of the Darners family (Aeshnidae), the large Green Darner is widely known in Wisconsin.
To learn more about dragonflies, see the Field Guide by the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership and the summary below.
Common Green DarnerAnax junius Blue DasherPachydiplax longipennis Prince BaskettailEpitheca princeps Widow Skimmer Libellula luctosa Four-spotted Skimmer Libellula quadrimaculata Common WhitetailLibellula lydia Twelve-Spotted SkimmerLibellula pulcella White-Faced MeadowhawkSympetrum obtrusum Eastern AmberwingPerithemis tenera Eastern PondhawkErythemis simplicicollis Wandering GliderPantala flavescens Black SaddlebagsTramea lacerata Halloween PennantCelithemis eponina Frosted Whiteface Leucorrhinia frigida Dot-tailed WhitefaceLeucrrhinia intacta* Variegated Meadowhawk Sympetrum corruptum* *Reported by Edgar Spaulding in 2003
Dragonflies have slender, elongated abdomens, robust bodies and 2 pairs of wings that are usually outstretched horizontally. The wings are membranous and elaborately veined. The hindwing is wider at the base than the forewing. The eyes are compound, large, adjoin each other and nearly cover the head. The antennae are short. The six legs are poor for walking but good for perching. Because they lay eggs in water, adults are usually near water, too, though their fast, strong flight takes them many places. Dragonflies eat mosquitos, beetles, flies, and even wasps - about 100 insects a day.
Larvae, called nymph, are aquatic, usually drab, with 6 legs and with small wing buds. Gills are located inside the rectum (unlike those of damselflies, which extend from the hind end like 3 leaflike tails). They breathe by drawing water in and out of their hind end. By forcefully expelling this water, the animal can move quickly in a form of jet propulsion. Most of a dragonfly’s life is spent as a nymph. Some species live for 5 years underwater before becoming adults. Nymphs are important predators of mosquitoes, midges and other small insects, and in turn, the nymphs are important food for fish and other aquatic insectivores.
Like many birds, dragonflies migrate south in early September, using the Lake Michigan shoreline as pathway. They take advantage of wind patterns and follow visual landmarks.
To distinguish between the many types of dragonflies, note the details of wing vein patterns as well as colors and markings on wings and body. Males and females often have different colors and markings. Subadults often have different markings, too.
PLEASE HELP US MAKE A DRAGONFLY CHECKLIST:
This is only a very preliminary dragonfly list for the Preserve. Thank you, Edgar Spaulding, Dave Fallow and Kyle Evan Johnson for checking for errors and reporting species not on our list. Please, entomologists out there, keep the reports coming in so that our list will become more accurate and complete. Please send additional dragonfly observation records (species, date and place seen, and approximate number of individuals) to Gisela at preserveFriends@gmail.com
Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve P.O. Box 5534 Madison, WI 53705