Thursday, July 5, 2012

Eastern Pondhawks

female Eastern Pondhawk with eggs emerging below the tail
all photos © Dave Spier

Eastern Pondhawks -- © Dave Spier

One of the more common July dragonflies in the eastern U.S. is the Eastern, or Common, Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis). It likes to hang around ponds with vegetation (such as lily pads and cattails), slow streams and even lakes, or sometimes nearby in fields, roadsides or sunny, open spots. Low plants give them a hunting vantage for their voracious appetites. Dragonflies generally eat smaller insects such as mosquitoes (YES!), but in turn can become prey for birds including Purple Martins and bluebirds.

Female pondhawks are an attractive bright green with three dark, somewhat-rectangular spots down the top of the abdomen (S4-S6) and a mostly-dark tail with white tips (cerci). Juvenile males are nearly identical, then mature into entirely pruinose-blue bodies while maintaining the green face and white cerci.

adult male Eastern Pondhawk -- © Dave Spier

Males defend small territories over shallow water where the females lay their eggs while hovering just above the water. In the opening photo above (taken several years ago at the Montezuma Audubon Center when I was helping with the NYS Odonate survey), you might notice the eggs emerging from under the tail. She will repeatedly dip the tip in the water just enough to release the eggs. After hatching, young dragonflies (called naiads) spend several years growing and hunting on the pond bottom before emerging and transforming into winged adults.

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adult male Eastern Pondhawk -- © Dave Spier

adult female Eastern Pondhawk -- © Dave Spier

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