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What Is a Green Darner Dragonfly?

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  • Written By: Ray Hawk
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2016
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The Green Darner dragonfly is a member of the Odonata order of insect species in the family of Aeshnidae with the taxonomic name of Anax junius. They are one of the largest and most widespread varieties of dragonfly in the world, growing to be up to 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) long and living throughout the continents of North America and South America, as well as in the Caribbean islands of the West Indies such as Jamaica, and regions of Asia such as China and Japan. While a migratory insect, they take up to four years to reach maturity, then only survive for about a month-and-a-half as an adult. This is despite the fact that they are very capable fliers and predators of lifeforms both larger and smaller than themselves, such as mosquitoes, moths, and even small fish.

The most stunning characteristics of the Green Darner dragonfly are its capabilities while in flight. Because it has large compound eyes, it can see in nearly 360° around itself as it moves through the air. Its up to 4.5 inch (11.43 centimeter) wingspan also gives it the ability to travel at at a speed of 50 miles per hour (80.5 kilometers per hour). Each of the four wings on a Green Darner dragonfly can be operated independently, which allows it to hover over one spot like a helicopter and maneuver precisely while in flight.

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Of about 5,200 species of dragonfly worldwide, the Green Darner dragonfly is one among only a few dozen species that have been shown to migrate like some song birds within North America do. They have been tracked by attaching tiny radio transmitters and shown to migrate during the period of August to November from southern Canada all the way across the US into Mexico. They also migrate north from March to June in swarms of hundreds of thousands, and seem to travel with hawks and the American kestrel, a type of falcon, that feed on small numbers of them en route.

Types of dragonflies have been detected in the fossil record back 285,000,000 years, which is twice as long as bird fossils go back in time; and though the Green Darner dragonfly is widespread throughout the world, they require wet climates to thrive and successfully migrate. This includes areas of lakes, streams, and thick vegetation that are breeding grounds for their main food sources of insects and small aquatic species. They are often referred to as mosquito hawks for their proficiency at catching the insects in flight. Even the larvae of the Green Darner dragonfly that take years to mature are predatory, feeding on fish eggs, frog tadpoles, and other small freshwater lifeforms.

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