This beautiful green dragonfly is the Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simpliciolis). They are primarily a species of the Eastern United States. They are found in the Great Plains States, Texas as well as a few isolated populations in Arizona and New Mexico. They are an average sized dragonfly measuring up to 2 1/2 inches. With their all over green coloring they are easily camouflaged against vegetation near the waters edge.
Mating takes place near water, and the female will lay her eggs in the vegetation in the water. The eggs hatch and the young nymphs will remain in the water feeding off aquatic insects. In about a year they will be ready to leave the water for the first time and shed their skin to become the gorgeous adult that you see here. They will climb onto a stick, rock or other solid surface. While they cling to this vantage point their skin will split down the back and the dragonfly hidden within will crawl out leaving its shed skin behind. The dragonfly is completely helpless at this point. It cannot swim away, crawl away or fly away. The dragonfly will begin pumping its wings to allow fluid to reach them. This fluid will engorge the wings and ready them for flight. Once the dragonfly has sufficiently dried itself and its wings are strong enough, it will take flight for the first time. Soon after its maiden voyage it will begin seeking mates. This will begin the cycle all over again.
They are typically associated with ponds or lakes, but they will also be found along creeks and slow moving streams. They are commonly found flying around meadows and open fields where they are looking for insect prey. They will dart after some delicious-looking insect and snatch it up with their powerful legs. Sometimes they will carry it back to a perch and feed, but more often they will feed while in flight.
This dragonfly also goes by the names of Green Jacket or Common Pondhawk. These are probably one of the most easily found and observed of all the dragonflies in Northwest Missouri. I come across them quite frequently, and I am always excited to see them.