Most people know about monarch butterfly migration, but there are actually other insects in the US that migrate. That includes 16 species of American dragonflies!
Some researchers actually attached tiny radio transmitters to some Green Darners and followed their migration. The average distance migrated was 58 km (about 36 miles), but some dragonflies traveled twice that distance!
A paper from 1998 described mass autumn migrations of dragonflies (Odonata) in Illinois, New Jersey, and Florida. The description of the Chicago migration event is delightful–one of the authors was working in his office at the Field Museum and noticed a giant swarm of dragonflies passing by:
“The flux of migrants was estimated from the museum rooftop by counting dragonflies as they passed through a 400-M2 (40 m long X 10 m deep) vertical window to the E. …At the point where migrants were passing the museum, the dragonfly stream was estimated to be 850 m wide. Assuming that passage rates were constant throughout the 5-h period during which the migration was in progress, ca. 1.2 million dragonflies were estimated to have been involved in the flight.”
Would you like to help document more dragonfly migration?
The Migratory Dragonfly Partnership (MDP) has started a citizen science project to investigate the movements of two migratory dragonflies: the Common Green Darner (Anax junius) and Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata).
You agree to visit the same wetland or pond site on a regular basis, and then report the arrival of migrant dragonflies moving south in the fall or north in the spring. They also would like to know when the first resident adults of these species emerge in the spring. Sign up at Dragonfly Pond Watch
More info about migratory dragonflies:
- A nice PDF about migratory dragonflies
- Watch a video of a radio tagged dragonfly
- Teachers: there is a neat exercise for students on this topic!
Full details of papers:
Wikelski, M., Moskowitz, D., Adelman, J., Cochran, J., Wilcove, D., & May, M. (2006). Simple rules guide dragonfly migration Biology Letters, 2 (3), 325-329 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2006.0487
Russell, R., May, M., Soltesz, K., & Fitzpatrick, J. (1998). Massive Swarm Migrations of Dragonflies (Odonata) in Eastern North America The American Midland Naturalist, 140 (2), 325-342 DOI: 10.1674/0003-0031(1998)140[0325:MSMODO]2.0.CO;2
I love citizen science projects, and this one looks like a great project for teachers!
The School of Ants project is a citizen-scientist driven study of the ants that live in urban areas, particularly around homes and schools. Collection kits are available to anyone interested in participating. Teachers, students, parents, kids, junior-scientists, senior citizens and enthusiasts of all stripes are involved in collecting ants in schoolyards and backyards using a standardized protocol so that we can make detailed maps of the wildlife that lives just outside our doorsteps.
They are not accepting new applications until Sept. 1, but teachers can email and ask special-like.
Can’t wait? Here are some other insect Citizen-Science projects:
- The Lost Ladybug Project
- Firefly Watch
- Sunflower Bee Counts
- Nature’s Notebook (a project of the National Phenology Network)
“I could use your help to run a North American pilot test of an inexpensive trap for yellowjackets and hornets. If successful it might result in development of a unique long-term survey for this group.
I have been in correspondence with workers in the Czech Republic, Great Britain, and Northwestern North America regarding the use of traps made from plastic drink and soda bottles partially filled with beer or apple juice/cider. These groups have been successful in trapping a variety of wasps.
We would like to see something similar tested throughout the continent, this year we would like to get a feel for what species and situations might be most useful prior to do a larger and more statistical rigorous set of trials. This time of year is when populations of these colonial species are at their height and thus this email to encourage you participation.
So this is where you come in. We need you to put out a trap(s) around your house, nature center, fields, and woods for 3 weeks and then send us back your “catch.” We will put everything together and send you back a report.
Here’s what you will need:
- Beer (The Europeans have standardized on Heineken but for this trial just use whatever is on hand)
- Apple cider or juice
- If you want try something else…go right ahead
- CLEAR Plastic soda or water bottle (take the labels off)
- String or wire
- Put a good 3 inches of beer or cider in the bottom of the bottle
- Keep the top of the bottle off
- Hang the bottle (from a tree or post) about 3-4 feet off the ground….hang the bottle by the neck.
Locations could be in any habitat with an emphasis on woodlands (which are likely have the highest species richness).
- At the end of 3 weeks strain out your sample and mail it in via the following procedure (note the alcohol and vinegar both will preserve the specimens over the 3 weeks).
- Rinse specimens under cool water
- Put into ziplock bag
- Add a very SMALL amount of alcohol, just enough to DAMPEN them (isopropyl is fine).
- Add a paper towel to keep any excess alcohol in place
- Put that bag into ANOTHER zip lock bag with another paper towel
- Put those bags into ANOTHER plastic bag and tie tightly.
- Ship in a padded envelope or box to me along with the who, what, where below:
Data needed for each trap:
Your location (gps, mailing address, description, map)
Date Put Out
Date Taken Down
Email address so we can contact you
That’s it, your ticket to fame is guaranteed, many thanks for the help and participation.
USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
BARC-EAST, BLDG 308, RM 124 10300 Balt. Ave., Beltsville, MD 20705
Sounds like fun! Sam is a mensch, so give him a hand.
[Thanks to Quinet for the photo of drunken wasps.]
I wrote last year about a new Citizen Science program called Firefly Watch. It’s a partnership between the Boston Museum of Science and researchers from Tufts University and Fitchburg State College to track these special summer insects.
They ask volunteers to spend some time outside in the evenings and to report what they see online. Researchers want to learn about the geographic distribution of fireflies and their activity during the summer season.
The museum is holding a Firefly Day this Saturday to kick off the program!
The Firefly Watch website opens in May–so why not sign up now, and get your data sheets ready? They even have a neat virtual habitat that you can practice your ID skills in!
I can tell you first-hand that I had a GREAT time doing this last year–kids and grownups both will have a blast.
There is a neat new project out for you to participate in: The Lost Ladybug Project.
From a press release about the project:
“scientists are looking for rare species, such as the nine-spotted, two-spotted and transverse lady beetles. These beetles were common 20 years ago, but have become harder to find in the past few decades. There are more than 400 ladybug species native to North America, but some have become extremely rare, displaced by development, pesticides, non-native species and other factors.”
The folks at LostLadybug would like you to photograph lady beetles and upload them to their site to become part of their database–you can see the real results online here! You’ll see the species ID of your beetle as they are processed.
And how cool is this: the First Sighting of a nine-spotted Ladybug in 14 years was made by a brother and sister, aged 10 and 11. Awesome!