Autumn Meadowhawk

autumn meadowhawk_9334

As it gets colder out, less and less insect life is out and about. One conspicuous exception is this awesome little dragonfly, which is present long after Summer species have reproduced and died.

autumn meadowhawk

This is a slender, pale, late-flying species. It has minimal black markings and the wings are slightly amber at the bases. Males and some mature females have brilliant red abdomens. In younger individuals, the abdomen is brown.

autumn meadowhawk_9287

The Autumn Meadowhawk is widely distributed throughout much of North America, where it inhabits marshes, lakes, ponds and bogs in areas that are usually somewhat wooded.

autumn meadowhawk_6656

Dragonflies have highly developed sight. Their large, compound eyes are used to capture prey. Insects are their main food, which their catch while flying. Dragonflies help control fly and mosquito popupaltions.

autumn meadowhawk_9305

Because of the cooler weather, this species is easier to approach than most other dragonflies. It can ofen be spotted on tree trunks and utilizes the solar-collector-like surfaces of fallen leaves to warm itself.

autumn meadowhawk_3783

Usually the last dragonfly of the year, Autumn Meadowhawks routinely survive the first frosts and even the first snow falls.

Third Eye Herp

Ebony Jewelwing

ebony jewelwing_1211

The Ebony Jewelwing is a damselfly. Damselflies are closely related to dragonflies and they look very much alike.

Ebony Jewelwing_5405

The easiest way to tell dragonflies and damselflies apart is to look at the wings. Dragonfly wings stick straight out from the body when the dragonfly is resting. Damselfly wings usually fold back above the body.

ebony jewelwing_8763

This two-inch insect is easily recognized by its all-black wings and iridescent metallic green body (the body may also appear black or blue depending on the light). Females have a white spot on their wings.

Ebony Jewelwing_5701

Ebony Jewelwings are found wherever there are shady forest streams. When they fly they look a lot like a butterfly because they flutter. They often stop to rest on leaves or twigs. Both sexes can be found together; males often face off in slow, circular “dances” that call to mind World War I aces squaring off for battle.

Ebony Jewelwing_5697

Ebony Jewelwings can be seen flying from May to August. They are not only beautiful, but beneficial, eating large numbers of gnats, aphids, flies, and other insects.

Third Eye Herp

Pacific Clubtail

Pacific Clubtail_2793

This dragonfly is at home near creeks in the mountains. It is an early flier, only seen as an adult in Spring, when males sit on rocks in the streams and chase females, or defend their territories against other males. Clubtail dragonflies are named for the expanded tip of their tails, which is more exaggerated in males.

Pacific Clubtail 026

An interesting feature of Pacific Clubtail is that the younger individuals are a lot brighter in color than mature adults. Immature males are bright yellow, but over time their colors become much more subdued.

Pacific Clubtail 036

They are important predators that eat mosquitoes and other small insects. Nearly all of the dragonfly’s head is eye, so they have incredible vision that encompasses almost every angle except right behind them.

Pacific Clubtail 055

Pacific Clubtails are expert fliers. They can fly straight up and down, hover like a helicopter and even mate mid-air. If they can’t fly, they’ll starve because they only eat prey they catch while flying.

Pacific Clubtail 047

Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve, some 300 million years ago. Modern dragonflies have wingspans of only two to five inches, but fossil dragonflies have been found with wingspans of up to two feet.

Third Eye Herp

Summertime Dragonflies

With the warm weather comes dragonflies. There has been quite a bit of rain the last few weeks, creating an ideal situation for mosquitos. Fortunately dragonflies are predators of small flying insects. Here are a few that I’ve seen recently.

Calico Pennant
calico pennant_0810

Common Whitetail
Common Whitetail (female)_9719

Eastern Pondhawk (male)
eastern pondhawk_9965

Eastern Pondhawk (female)
eastern pondhawk_0219

Black Saddlebags
Black Saddlebags_9848

Ruby Meadowhawk

 03 ruby meadowhawk_4031

Widow Skimmer
widow skimmer_9724

Third Eye Herp


When I was in grade school a read I book titled Nature Thought of It First, which illustrates how man has adapted principles of nature’s tools, traps, defenses, weapons, and inventions for his own purposes. Dragonflies, with their ability to hover in the air, are man’s inspiration for the invention of helicopters.

Dragonflies are characterized by large multi-faceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings, and an elongated body. They are some of the fastest insects in the world. Dragonflies are valuable predators that eat mosquitoes and other small insects. They are usually found around marshes, lakes, ponds, streams, and wetlands because their larvae, known as “nymphs,” are aquatic.

In the United States dragonflies and their relatives, the damselflies are sought out as a hobby similar to birding and butterflying, known as “oding,” from the dragonfly’s Latin species name, odonata. Oding is especially popular in Texas, where 225 different species of odonates have been observed.

Along with butterflies, dragonflies fascinate and capture our imagination. No doubt, their prowess as aviators has a lot to do with that fascination. Dragonflies flit and dart to and fro, up and down, hovering and zigzagging. Their aerial movements are the envy of human pilots and aeronautical engineers everywhere – their ability to catch (and devour) flying insect pests is nothing short of amazing.

The predecessors of modern dragonflies and damselflies appeared more than 300 million years ago. One of these, Meganeura monyi, is the largest flying insect ever known. Fossils of this giant dragonfly ancestor show it had a wingspan of 2-1/2 feet compared with modern species wing spans of just a few inches.

Third Eye Herp