Arboreal dragonflies like timberlands

Arboreal dragonflies — dragonflies that live in or among trees — like timberlands. Timberland Boots, that is. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Hey, I see what you did there!” But seriously folks, Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) is a habitat-specific species of odonate that prefers forested locations.

Habitat: Temporary pools with sedges, wetland grasses, and often mosses, including sphagnum. Usually in woods. Source Credit: Blue-faced MeadowhawkDragonflies of Northern Virginia by Kevin Munroe, Manager, Huntley Meadows Park.

The following Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies were spotted near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park on 14 October 2014. Both individuals are males, as indicated by their coloration and terminal appendages. The dragonflies are shown perching on my boots.

Left Foot

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

Right Foot

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

Editor’s Note: Odonate research is an area where amateurs, like me, can contribute to what is known about dragonflies and damselflies. Although the flight period for some meadowhawk dragonflies, including Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum) and Blue-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum ambiguum), is from June to October-November in Northern Virginia, large numbers of meadowhawks don’t appear until fall in the mid-Atlantic United States. I wonder where meadowhawks are during the summer months. My theory is meadowhawk dragonflies are arboreal. They live in trees for months and burst on the scene at ground/water level when it’s time to mate. I asked Dennis Paulson, author of Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East, for his opinion regarding my theory.

Walter, I don’t know if [meadowhawks] are up in the trees, but for sure they are at some distance from their breeding grounds. In Japan, a very common species of meadowhawk emerges from the rice fields in summer, migrates up into the nearby mountains for up to two months, I think, then returns to the rice fields in autumn, many of them already in tandem. We don’t know if any North American meadowhawk (except Variegated) does anything that extreme, but some people have speculated that at least Autumns spend quite a long time away from the water before returning.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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One Response to “Arboreal dragonflies like timberlands”

  1. Mike Powell Says:

    Wonderful, fun shots of the Blue-faced Meadowhawk. Now, if you could just get an endorsement deal from Timberland…

    Your theory is intriguing and it makes sense, though I guess you’d need to gather the evidence to prove it. Would that require you to live in the trees for a few months to see if you see them there?

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