Odes Around Us

Dragonflies and damselflies belong to an order of insect called Odonata. Dragonflies are in the suborder Anisoptera, the damsels in the suborder Zygoptera.

Dragonflies usually hold their wings out to their sides when at rest. They are typically larger and bulkier than damselfies. Dragons have large compound eyes which, in many species, cover most of the head. Some species eyes only just meet at the top of the head, but still cover a large portion of the head. Other species, like the clubtails, have compound eyes that do not quite meet at the top of the head but are still very large. The word Anisoptera means “unequal wings.” Dragonfly hindwings are much wider than their forewings.

Most species of damselfly hold their wings folded over their backs while at rest, the spread-winged damsels are the exception. They also have compound eyes but in all species the eyes are at the sides of their wide heads (like a hammerhead shark). The word Zygoptera means “equal winged.” The front and rear wings of damselflies are nearly the same in size and shape.

I’ve seen 38 species of odonata, or odes, here at the Museum. Here is a sampling of some of them. The photos are in no particular order starting with the damsels.

Azure bluet (Enallagma aspersum). Find this near shallow ponds with few predators.
Azure bluet (Enallagma aspersum). Find this near shallow ponds with few predators.
Familiar bluet (Enallagma civile). Look for this common damsel at ponds and slow streams.
Familiar bluet (Enallagma civile). Look for this common damsel at ponds and slow streams.
Orange bluet (Enallagma signatum). You can see these at both ponds, streams and small rivers throughout our area.
Orange bluet (Enallagma signatum). You can see these at ponds, streams and small rivers throughout our area.
Southern Spreadwing (Lestes australis). Ponds and lakes with vegetation along the shoreline are the best places to find this "spreadwing" damselfly.
Southern Spreadwing (Lestes australis). Ponds and lakes with vegetation along the shoreline are the best places to find this “spreadwing” damselfly. They hold their wings out to the side when at rest.
Blue corporal (Ladona deplanata). An early season dragonfly found around ponds and lakes and slow moving rivers.
Blue corporal (Ladona deplanata). An early season dragonfly found around ponds and lakes and slow moving rivers. Note the two blue “corporal” stripes on the top of the thorax (body part behind head).
Blue dasher (Pachidiplax longipennis). If you haven't seen one of these small odes, you haven't been looking. They are common just about anywhere there's water.
Blue dasher (Pachidiplax longipennis). If you haven’t seen one of these small odes, you haven’t been looking. They are common just about anywhere there’s water.
Wandering glider (Pantala flavescens). This dragonfly gets around. Look for it just about anywhere, including mall parking lots.
Wandering glider (Pantala flavescens). This dragonfly gets around. Look for it just about anywhere, including mall parking lots.
Common baskettail (Epitheca cynosura). Note the eggs in this early season dragonfly's "basket."
Common baskettail (Epitheca cynosura). Note the eggs in this early season dragonfly’s “basket.”
Eastern amberwing (Perithemis tenera). Another common dragonfly that's found at most ponds and lakes. Although only about an inch long it's difficult to overlook these dragons.
Eastern amberwing (Perithemis tenera). Another common dragonfly that’s found at most ponds and lakes. Although only about an inch long, it’s difficult to overlook these dragons.
Eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis). A common skimmer found at most ponds, often away from the water. This is a male.
Eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis). A common skimmer found at most ponds, often away from the water. This is a male.
Eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis).Young males are green like this female.
Eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis). Young males are green like this female.
Great blue skimmer (Libellula vibrans). The largest of the skimmers, sometimes seen in great swarms.
Great blue skimmer (Libellula vibrans). The largest of the skimmers, sometimes seen in great swarms.
Slaty skimmer (Libellula incesta). An all dark and common skimmer.
Slaty skimmer (Libellula incesta). An all dark and common skimmer.
Twelve-spotted skimmer (Libellula pulchella) and Common whitetail (Plathemis lydia). Twelve-spotted (top) is migrant in our area, whitetail is everywhere you look.
Twelve-spotted skimmer (Libellula pulchella) and common whitetail (Plathemis lydia). Twelve-spotted (top) is a migrant in our area, whitetail is everywhere you look.
Mocha emerald (Somatochlora linearis). They will be lurking in the shadows near small woodland streams.
Mocha emerald (Somatochlora linearis). They will be lurking in the shadows near small woodland streams. Note the green (emerald) eyes.
Common green darner (Anax junius). You could run into one of these just about anywhere you roam.
Common green darner (Anax junius). You could run into one of these just about anywhere you roam.
Comet darner (Anax longipes). Small ponds and lakes are the best places to see these large colorful darners.
Comet darner (Anax longipes). Small ponds and lakes are the best places to see these large colorful darners.
Taper-tailed darner (Gomphaeschna antilope). I've only seen two of these small darner at the Museum, both were in June.
Taper-tailed darner (Gomphaeschna antilope). I’ve only seen two of these small darners at the Museum, both were in June.
Cyrano darner (Nasiaeschna pentacantha). Named for it's large nose-like projection on it's face. Here, it is eating and slaty skimmer.
Cyrano darner (Nasiaeschna pentacantha). Named for the large nose-like projection on it’s face. This one is eating a slaty skimmer.
Autumn pondhawk (Sympetrum vicinum). I most often see these small dragons from October to November, but have seen them in December.
Autumn pondhawk (Sympetrum vicinum). I most often see these small dragons from October to November, but have also seen them as late as December.

Most of the odes seen here at the Museum are generalists and can be seen at nearly every pond or lake in the state. The Mocha emerald and Taper-tailed darner are two of the exceptions. It’s curious that I’ve seen two individuals of each of those species, one live and one partially eaten dead individual of each.

Many species didn’t make the photo list here simply because I wasn’t able to get a shot of them. Some species don’t perch very often and when they do it’s in a location which may not be easily accessible. But enough excuses. I will keep trying.

If you were to walk down to the end of our 700 foot boardwalk, lean over the rail and peek down at water at the point where the smartweed grows, I can guarantee that you will see some of the species in the above photos. If, for some reason, you can’t locate any of the above mentioned odes, locate me and I’ll point them out to you.

3 responses to Odes Around Us

  1. Avatar
    Mark Burke says:

    I am researching dragonflies for an art plaque I’m working on. Your photos and observations are wonderful.

  2. Avatar
    Wendy says:

    You are ode-dacious, Greg! Never thought there was such a diversity of odes!

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