Dragonfly Migration Watch

green darnerMost 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:

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

7 thoughts on “Dragonfly Migration Watch

  1. Nice to read about dragonfly. In certain nations, particularly Japan, Odonata have long been a well known subject of art and culture, and rank with seeing the stars and wild birds like a subject of popular scientific interest. Within the European folk tradition, Odonates are usually approved a less favorable status as “equine-stingers” or “devil’s darning needles”. Actually they neither sting nor bite and all sorts of species are completely harmless. Contrary, Odonata are advantageous to humans because when voracious marine potential predators guide within the charge of insect unwanted pests.

  2. Very cool. I remember once seeing thousands of Green Darners along the shore of Lake Michigan. Very surreal :)

  3. I found my way here from A French Garden. I will very much enjoy this informative blog. I “specialise” (too grand a term for my photography but the best I can do before my first coffee of the day) in photographing bugs. I look forward to learning more about my models here. :)

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