Dragonfly a/k/a Mosquito Hawk

Dragonflies. Anisoptera.  Belonging to the order Odonata (“toothed”).

All dragonflies have two sets of wings, great big eyes (they are visual hunters), and a long skinny body with 10 segments. A big bug with teeth, sort of. Powerful mandibles for sure. A carnivorous big bug with a voracious appetite for mosquitoes that earns its nickname: “Mosquito Hawk.” There are 8 families of dragonfly and at least 124 genera in those families…and still counting. Read lots more about dragonflies here. I’ve not done much oding, so it’s pretty reckless of me to hazard a guess, but I thought at first this might be Didymops Transversa. The wings sure look like a match, with the placement of those dark “reinforced” sections.  And the body coloration looks close.

But, I have it on good authority that I’m wrong. Dragonfly Woman, an aquatic entomologist from Arizona, says she doesn’t necessarily know tons about identifying Michigan dragonflies, but she was pretty sure this guy was a member of the Aeshna genus–likely one of the mosaic darners. Wow, and me a sock knitter and all!  The good people hanging out at BugGuide agree.  A comment from one knowledgeable BugGuide participant says it’s definitely a female Aeshna.  I didn’t ask how he knows it’s a girl (probably more girls than guys darn, do you think?)  He thinks it might be a Canada Darner, but would want to have a closer look at the pattern on the side of her thorax to know that for sure.  Wow.  Again.

Shortly before we found this guy, Steve watched a dragonfly that looked like this one hatch out on the lawn from its superugly nymph stage. The nymphs crawl out of the water, crack out of their drab gray-brown carapace and unfold into something like this.  This visitor to our deck sat for at least half an hour drying his wings, we assume.  Or catching his breath.  Or doing the dragonfly equivalent of trying to figure out how all his new “stuff” is supposed to work.

Dragonflies will live for 6-8 weeks  Mate, eat and die.  This somewhat drab-colored dragonfly is not quite the match for the beauty that hatched out on our lawn a few years ago: 2009 Long Lake Dragonfly. But still a darned cool bug specimen. And so well-mannered as compared to the ants that have decided they own the deck this year.

Brand New Dragonfly


We watched this big guy just after he’d emerged from his nymph stage and was drying his wings for several minutes on our lawn.  You can find out more about the nymph stage by watching this video on the life cycle of the dragonfly.  Let’s just say that the end stage is the best–no more breathing by sucking water into your butt, no more incessant moults, no more stuck in the pond eating whatever scummy thing passes by.  At the end stage you can be adopted by the arts and crafts movement, turn up in Navaho jewelry and live it up eating mosquitos by the zillions.  Aren’t those compound eyes something?  And how about that “mask” (the large hinged lower lip that moves faster than any prey).  So, this is my ode to odonata (the Latin species name for dragonflies).  And if you want to spend your time watching dragonflies, you would be oding.