Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Eastern Pondhawk

Eastern Pondhawk Dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis)
are one of the most common dragonflies throughout eastern North America. There are also small populations in New Mexico and Arizona. They are a medium sized dragonfly with a wingspan of 2 1/2 to 3 inches. The overall color is green and black which allows them to blend in with vegetation near ponds, lakes, streams and other watery areas where they will be found. They often hunt for food far away from water so it is not uncommon to find them in fields, meadows, prairies and grasslands where no water is present. Like all dragonflies they feed exclusively on insects which they capture on the fly. They will use their legs to scoop bugs out of the air and bring the unfortunate victim to their mouth and begin feeding. They are the original inventors of "fast food." They will sometimes land on a nearby perch to finish their meal.


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.

Immature males will be powdery blue (pictured at right) and as they age they will be mostly green. Females are also green with black spots on their abdomen.
These dragonflies also go by the name "Green Jacket" and "Common Pondhawk". They are typically easier to approach than most other species of dragonflies. With over 30,000 lenses per eye they have excellent eyesight and are next to impossible to sneak up on. With dragonflies it is more about temperament, which can vary by species, as well as individuals within each species. 


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