Carolina Saddlebags have been recorded in about 15 counties in Wisconsin, scatter-gunned throughout the state. These are primarily eastern/southeastern dragonflies that range from Nova Scotia to Texas, and they’re listed as a rare migrant here in God’s Country. Carolinas prefer shallow ponds, swamps, and lakes, and very slow streams as long as there is plenty of emergent vegetation and the water is not muddy, and they are a bit more tolerant of the presence of fish than their confreres.
The wonder of ephemeral pools is that they are populated by animals that take this annual disappearing act in stride—animals that are prepared to dry up with the pond or to get out of Dodge (timing is everything), and therein lie many tales. An astonishing array of animals use ephemeral ponds as a place to drink, hunt, and breed, but an ephemeral pond is a challenging place to call home. The still, shallow water warms quickly (which encourages speedy metamorphoses) but contains little oxygen.
Most of our Wisconsin darners are in the famously-confusing mosaic darner genus Aeshna. Common Green Darners are one of two species of Anax darners found in the state. Common green darners are, well, very common, not just here but across the country. And Central America. And Hawai’i. And Canada. And there are populations in Tahiti and the West Indies. And strong winds have blown individuals to Great Britain, China, and Russia. The other Anax, the stunning Comet darner (Anax longipes) is a rare visitor and even rarer breeder in Wisconsin.
“The Twelve Days of Christmas” is an English carol that was probably borrowed from the French and that was originally an acapella chant/call-and-response/children’s memory game. It first appeared in writing in 1780, and there were (and still are) many variations of it, though the words were more-or-less standardized when an official melody was finally written for it in 1909.
Slaty Skimmers are one of three dragonflies in Wisconsin that are closely-related, very similar-looking, and very rare. Males are territorial and hostile, defending stretches of shoreline, and an approach by an intruding male results in aggressive displays, loop-the-loops, and chases. They are most active in the morning. Females are rarely seen at the water’s edge unless they’re in the mood, and they may breed while still in their juvenile coloration.
Everywhere you look, you see adult insects, young insects, and the kinds of activity that will result in them. Here are some sights from the BugLady’s walks in southeastern Wisconsin.
Arrow Clubtails (Stylurus spiniceps) are fairly-common/widespread-but-not-abundant inhabitants of the northeast quadrant of the U.S. They prefer good-sized rivers with muddy/sandy bottoms and with trees along the edges. Unlike the Pond clubtails, the Arrow clubtail is a Hanging clubtail, one of 11 North American species in the genus Stylurus.
The range of the Four-spotted Skimmer is circumpolar, and turns up in Asia and from European countries where it’s called the Four-spotted chaser. Its American range is listed as the northern half of North America. These are dragonflies of marshy lakes, fens, acid bogs, plant-filled ponds, and very slow streams. Adults are found over fields and along woody edges and they may form swarms over open water; juveniles are often seen far from water. They like to perch on emergent vegetation but are also found near or on the ground.
The 2016 dragonfly season is starting slowly—some migratory darners appeared a few weeks ago but then disappeared when colder weather came back. In the past week, the BugLady has seen a Common whitetail, a Chalk-fronted corporal, and some Whitefaces, plus a handful of damselflies. If you check the archives at the UWM Field Station link below, you’ll find that dragonflies have not been neglected.
The range of the Blue Dasher stretches across North America from British Columbia to Ontario, south (except for the Rockies and Dakotas) to California and Florida, with scenic side-trips into Mexico, the Bahamas, and Belize. According to the Wisconsin Odonata Survey, Blue dashers may have been extending their range north in the state in recent years.