HMP needs some Needham’s!

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone?” Source Credit: Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell.

Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, used to have a big breeding population of Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami). 2013 and 2014, not so much. We’re talking about spotting one or two individuals per year.

Is it a coincidence that the past two winters have been unusually cold in the mid-Atlantic states? Same question asked another way: Is there a reason Needham’s larvae would be less likely than other species of dragonflies to survive harsh winters? For example, Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) seem to be as abundant as ever. I consulted the experts of the Northeast Odonata Facebook group for answers to my questions.

Problem is I don’t think anyone knows the requirements that a breeding population of Needham’s needs to flourish. There could be other factors at play besides cold winters. Source Credit: Ed Lam, author and illustrator of Damselflies of the Northeast.

Alas, the virtual disappearance of Needham’s Skimmer from Huntley Meadows remains a puzzling mystery.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

05 JUL 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Needham’s Skimmer (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by its terminal appendages. She is perching on a Tick Seed (Coreopsis grandiflora) flower dead-head.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

05 JUL 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Needham’s Skimmer (female)

This is only the second Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly that the author has spotted during 2015, both females. The first female is featured in another post that includes an annotated image illustrating several key field markers that may be used to identify Needham’s Skimmers.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

05 JUL 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Needham’s Skimmer (female)

Back in the good old days, Needham’s Skimmers were seen frequently everywhere in the central wetland area.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

24 JUN 2012 | Huntley Meadows Park | Needham’s Skimmer (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by its reddish-orange coloration and the terminal appendages at the tip of its abdomen.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

24 JUN 2012 | Huntley Meadows Park | Needham’s Skimmer (male)

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

24 JUN 2012 | Huntley Meadows Park | Needham’s Skimmer (male)

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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One Response to “HMP needs some Needham’s!”

  1. Mike Powell Says:

    Alas, Walter, I don’t think I’ve seen a single one this season at our beloved park.

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