Blue Dasher dragonfly at Schuylkill Center - Photo by Donna L. Long

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner Dragonfly. Photo by Donna L. Long.
Male Common Green Darner Dragonfly. Photo by Donna L. Long.

The Common Green Darner is a large dragonfly that is among the most common dragonflies of North America. It’s large size and flying speed draw attention to it wherever it goes.

There are several species of dragonflies that live in my area.  I don’t know the species well enough to name them. But, I know the Common Green Darner.

Here’s to learning at least one dragonfly in your area.

Head of the Common Green Darner.
Head of the Common Green Darner dragonfly. Photo by Mark Nenadov [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Common Green Darner (Anax junius)

Family Odonata. Dragonflies are insects.

Length: 3 inches long.

Key feature: green thorax. The thorax is the bulging body part right behind the eyes.

Males: Thorax bright to dull grass-green (no markings), abdomen mostly blue with a wide blackish stripe along the back of the abdomen that widens toward the tip.

Eyes are dull green. Wings are clear. Bull’s eye on the forehead.

Females and immature males: Thorax is green like the males. Abdomens are brick-red to violet-red. Eyes; brown. Wings: clear and uncolored or orange-tinted in immatures becoming amber colored with age.

Habitats: water – lakes, slow-moving streams, and small ponds. During migration, this dragonfly can be spotted well away from water.

Food: Dragonflies are predators and eat mostly small insects.

female Common Green Darner dragonfly
female Common Green Darner dragonfly. Photo by Eugene Zelenko [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Life Cycle of the Common Green Darner

Flight Season: Spring through early autumn in most of North America. All year in southern regions including Georgia, Louisiana, and Florida

Green Darners fly continuously or hover. Darners hang vertically when they perch.

Mating Habits of the Common Green Darner

Eggs: Eggs are laid on floating or submerged vegetation in ponds particularly vernal ponds. Eggs hatch in a few days.  Females can lay up to a few thousand eggs.

Young or Larval:  Hatched dragonflies look very different from adult dragonflies. They may have a head, thorax, and abdomen but look more like bugs to me. Being insects, dragonflies have six legs.

Larval are predators. They capture their prey by grabbing prey with their lower lip (labia). This lip is called a “killer lip”.

The larva that hatch in late summer, will migrate south as immatures with immature colors and markings.

Blue Dasher dragonfly at Schuylkill Center - Photo by Donna L. Long
Blue Dasher dragonfly at Schuylkill Center – Photo by Donna L. Long

Common Green Darner Migration

I often see this large darner flying over parking lots in the fall. Common Green Darners seen away from the water are often migrating.

Common Green Darners arrive in the northern regions in April. They are one of the earliest of the migratory dragonflies.

Southbound migration can be seen along coastlines. The times I have gone to the most southern tip of New Jersey at Cape May State Park, I have seen migrating dragonflies.  Southbound migration has been observed along, the Atlantic and gulfs coasts and along the Great Lakes in the U.S.

During winter Common Green Darners are seen in eastern Mexico, Florida, and the West Indies during winter.

Observing dragonflies

Choose calm sunny days from late May through September in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic regions. Darners often sun themselves on logs, rocks, and other horizontal surfaces.

Further study topics: The summer and winter ranges of the migratory populations is poorly known.

Citizen Science Projects Focusing on Dragonflies

Odonata Central (global focus) https://scistarter.org/odonatacentral

Dragonfly Migration (North America) https://scistarter.org/dragonfly-migration

Dragonfly Swarm Project (United States) https://scistarter.org/dragonfly-swarm-project

Other projects can be found on SciStarter https://scistarter.org/

Books about Dragonflies

Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Dragonflies by Donald and Lillian Stokes

Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) by Dennis Paulson

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