Emperor Dragonfly

A selection of dragonfly larvae.

While thrashing a woodland pond for my work experience, I found several types of dragonfly larvae, including the larvae of the beautiful emperor dragonfly. In the pond Matt and I discovered three different species of dragonfly larvae, both hawkers and chasers. The hawker dragonfly on the right, can be recognised by it’s larvae’s larger, longer body, which will eventually turn into a dragonfly from one of the largest and fastest groups of dragonfly around. Hawkers generally fly well above head height, rarely settling, and diving down on prey like a hawk. They are the largest and fastest dragonfly, as well as the most prevalent type in Britain, with over seven species. I am not sure what species the larvae on the right is, but I suspect it is a Brown Dragonfly.

The chaser dragon fly in the middle, has a smaller and squatter body than the hawker’s, and will turn into a Four-Spotted or Broad-Bodied Chaser when it matures. Chasers sit on vegetation around ponds and rivers, waiting for their prey to fly past them, before taking to the air to hunt them down, giving them the name chasers.

The large dragonfly larvae on the left is that of an emperor dragonfly, which is extremely common in Britain, and can often be seen flitting around the edges of ponds, in Europe and parts of northern Africa. We can identify the larvae by the round shape of it’s head, as opposed to the more angular heads of the other larvae. It is also a hawker dragonfly, and has beautiful sky blue colourations when mature. They will prey mainly on butterflies, and other slow moving flying insects, which they dive down while they fly beneath them. They have been known to eat other species of dragonfly, particularly chasers and darters, which are slower and more vulnerable to their attacks. In the past, these dragonflies have been associated with witches and the devil, people claiming that they use their tails to sew up peoples eyes in the night. Obviously such tales are untrue and completely unfounded. The emperor dragonfly larvae pictured above is close to becoming a full adult, and will likely transform within a week, so we let him back into the water, keeping the other two larvae for identification under a microscope.

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