The Common Green Darner (scientific name Anax junius) is the largest and most brightly colored of the five species of dragonfly we are looking for as part of the Dragonfly Detectives project. The body of this dragonfly is approximately three inches long. The thorax, or middle section of the dragonfly, is bright green. The abdomen, or tail-end of the dragonfly, can differ in color depending on the sex. Males have a brilliant blue abdomen while the females have a greenish or purplish brown abdomen. Both sexes have a black stripe down the entire length of the abdomen. The wings of this darner are uncolored or slightly orange-tinted in immature dragonflies.
This dragonfly can be found in almost any stillwater habitat in the entire United States, but is most commonly found feeding on small insects over fields or patrolling (flying over water to defend territory) lakes, ponds, and ditches. Its range stretches north into Canada and south to Central America. If you are lucky you might see a “swarm” of dragonflies: dozens, even hundreds of dragonflies all in one place at one time! Swarming appears to be due to favorable feeding conditions or group migration. Once familiar with this species, you might start noticing these beautiful dragonflies when you travel outside of North Carolina too!
North Carolina has both resident and migrating populations of the Common Green Darner. The migrating dragonflies arrive in early spring from the south. This early set of dragonflies mate, lay eggs, and die during the summer. The succeeding generation of these darners can go from egg to adult while still in summer season. Soon the migrating dragonflies are ready to take flight and head south once again. They migrate much like a bird, taking advantage of tail winds, using some days to travel and other days to rest. Their average daily flight during migration is 7.5 miles, but darners have been documented to fly up to 100 miles in a day! The total length of this dragonfly’s migration is still being studied by scientists and by citizens like you! Resident dragonflies do not migrate, but can be found in this area throughout most of the late spring and into the early fall.