Sunday, June 24, 2012

Virginia Dragonflies: The Comet Darner

Betsy and I were in Virginia last week for a family get together.  Of course, we were also hoping to see some interesting birds and dragonflies while there – and we weren't disappointed.  As luck would have it, our hotel was located next to some nice wildlife areas, including a pond and some woods.

The morning after arriving we visited the pond, and immediately saw lots of dragonfly activity – many individuals and many species as well.  One of the first dragonflies we saw was the strikingly-colored Comet Darner.  This darner has a reddish-orange abdomen and a green thorax and head.  It's unmistakable, which certainly makes the identification a breeze.  Here are a couple shots of it, first in flight, and then perched in a tree:

A Comet Darner (male) patrols its pond.
Comet Darner perched high in a tree.
Notice the long, orange legs.  No wonder the species name for this dragonfly is longipes, meaning long-legged.

The Comet Darner is larger than the Common Green Darner, which was also seen at the same pond.  In fact, the Comet Darner is the second largest dragonfly in North America – exceeded in total length only by the Giant Darner of the southwest.

The Common Green Darner and Comet Darner are closely related, both belonging to the genus Anax (king, ruler).  The Common Green Darner's scientific name is Anax junius (king of June), while the Comet Darner's scientific name is Anax longipes (long-legged ruler).  The robust legs seen in the last photo above show how this darner got its name.

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