Blackflies weren’t the only insects to be seen in the mid-May woods. The warmer weather has stirred many species into activity, including a variety of spring-flying dragonflies. Incredibly agile, dragonflies are able to fly forward and backward, glide and hover. They catch their food on the wing, preying on mosquitoes, flies, midges, butterflies, moths, even other dragonflies. Along with damselflies, dragonflies are members of the ancient insect order Odonata, inhabitants of the planet for over 250 million years. In North America, there are about 435 species of dragonflies and damselflies, with dragonflies represented in 7 families. Dragonflies in northern regions generally survive just 2 to 4 weeks and various species are connected to specific flight seasons.
Pictured above and below are Lancet Clubtails (Gomphus exilis). Clubtails get their name from the flare of the segments at the end of the abdomen, which gives a clubbed appearance. The Lancet has narrow yellow “daggers” running down the top of the abdomen. The placement of the large, compound eyes of dragonflies can aid in identifying the species. Clubtails have separated eyes with a gap between them.
The small dragonfly pictured below is a Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta). The source of its name is self-evident. It belongs to the Skimmer family. Unlike the clubtail, its eyes meet broadly along a seam.
The Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura), below, is a medium-sized member of the Emerald family. Like Skimmers, Emeralds have eyes that meet at a seam.