Green Darner Migration

Common green darner female (Anax junius)

On a windy, warm September evening, the sun has set; the air is soft and dusky. Migration is underway, but not the avian sort. A few large common green darner dragonflies zigzag beneath the trees hawking insects. I look skyward and far above me, a river of swarming green darners surges — hundreds of them — straight south ahead of a cold front.

Born in Minnesota, these green darners migrate to the Gulf Coast of the southern United States and Mexico. When they arrive, they’ll mate and lay eggs to produce the next generation, which will migrate north in April or May. When they arrive here, they will mate and give rise to a new generation before dying. These progeny will hatch by late August and continue the cycle of migration and reproduction. 

But that’s not the entire story! Common green darners are present in the north all summer — so where did they come from? There’s a resident population that doesn’t migrate. They’re active and deposit eggs throughout the summer and autumn. However, their young, called naiads, won’t mature until the following spring. They will wait out the winter on the bottom of a pond, marsh or slow-moving river or stream.

Averaging 3 inches in length, and with a wingspan of 3.5 inches, green darners are among our largest dragonflies. This one also is a female. Males’ abdomens are bright blue.

Green darner adults eat mosquitoes, midges and other flying insects. The aquatic naiads feast on mosquito larvae and other aquatic insects, tadpoles and tiny fish. Green darners are eaten by spiders, large robber flies and birds such as kestrels.

Further Reading

Mead, Kurt. (2009). Dragonflies of the North Woods. Duluth, Minnesota: Kollath & Stensaas Publishing.

Smithsonian Magazine

UW-Milwaukee Field Station

2 thoughts on “Green Darner Migration

  1. I am continually amazed by the facts of migration, that these smallest, most delicate of creatures make this trip without the use of planes, trains, or automobiles; or even google maps! Thank you, Beth.

    • Hi Linda, migration truly is amazing and there’s so little that scientists really understand about it! Thanks for reading my blog and for your interesting comments!

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