Persistent Aerial Predator

A dragonfly that is poised in mid-air and patiently hunting insects over wetlands, ponds, streams and lakes is a familiar–and welcome–summer sight to many Western residents.

Fortunately, sightings of the Paddle-tailed Darner, or Aeshna palmata are not only common today, but are also likely to be in the future. This dragonfly has a Yellow status on the B.C. List of Species. Being ‘yellow’ is a good thing–these dragonflies have populations that are in a secure state, are found in abundance, and are not threatened with extinction.

The Paddle-tailed Darner can be found in both British Columbia and Yukon from as early as mid-May until early November, though it is more commonly seen in July and August. This mighty hunter was captured in late September in East Cambie, Richmond, B.C. using a Canon EOS 60D by Wolf Read, the contributor of our Photo of the Week.

This photo shows off the beautiful colouring of the Paddle-tailed Darner. Most have a brown body with blue, yellow, or green spots or lines along the sides. They are large, can move quickly, and often travel far in search of prey. Wetlands are not only important as hunting grounds to these dragonflies, but also serve as nurseries. Females lay their eggs on drift wood or floating plants in calm water.

The eggs are the first of three life stages. Eggs become nymphs which live underwater. The nymph stage is the longest in a dragonfly’s life. While most dragonflies live for approximately one year, some nymphs may take up to four years to develop into adults. Once grown, the adult has an average of just two months to find a mate and reproduce successfully.

Nowadays, dragonflies are a welcome sign of spring and are also seen as a kind of insect repellent. However, this was not always the case. Once upon a time, dragonflies frightened young children. This was because people used to tell noisy kids that dragonflies would stitch up their mouths-the body of the insect closely resembles a darning needle.

Thanks to Wolf Read for submitting this photo and reminding us to be on the lookout for Paddle-tailed Darners as we head into their most visible season. If you would like to contribute to our impressive collection of wetlands and nature photography, please click here! As well, don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@BCWFWetlands) for the latest wetland news.

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