Migrant hawker dragonfly
This beautiful dragonfly is a common sight on calm, sunny days in September. Look out for them skimming low across the water or settled with their wings open.
Dragonflies are insects belonging to the order Odonata (meaning ‘toothed jaw’ in ancient Greek). Dragonflies have two pairs of densely veined wings and long, ten-segmented bodies which are often brightly coloured.
|Migrant hawker (Aeshna mixta) © Jim Scott|
The adults are day-flying and are usually seen over freshwater, near river banks, streams or ponds. Adult dragonflies are relatively short-lived lasting around two months.
The young spend their life underwater as an aquatic creature. Dragonfly larvae are called nymphs and they are predators feeding on anything that moves (from tadpoles to small fish). They have an incredible hinged jaw and a pair of pincers allowing them to ferociously grab their prey. Most dragonfly nymphs complete their development in one year, although some larger species take 2-5 years.
|Migrant hawker (Aeshna mixta) © DenisG|
When the nymph is ready to become an adult dragonfly it moves towards the shore and, at night (or early in the morning) during late spring (or early summer), climbs the stems of tall plants before emerging from its nymphal cast as an adult dragonfly.