Green darner

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Green darner
Adult female, Blackwell Forest Preserve, Illinois[1]
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Odonata
Infraorder: Anisoptera
Family: Aeshnidae
Genus: Anax
A. junius
Binomial name
Anax junius
(Drury, 1773)
  • Libellula junia Drury, 1773
  • Anax spiniferus Rambur, 1842
  • Anax ocellatus Hagen, 1867
  • Anex junius (Drury)
  • Gomphus junius (Drury, 1773)
  • Anax severus Hagen, 1867

The green darner or common green darner[5] (Anax junius), after its resemblance to a darning needle, is a species of dragonfly in the family Aeshnidae. One of the most common and abundant species throughout North America, it also ranges south to Panama.[6] It is well known for its great migration distance from the northern United States south into Texas and Mexico.[7][8] It also occurs in the Caribbean, Tahiti, and Asia from Japan to mainland China.[9] It is the official insect for the state of Washington in the United States.

The green darner is a large dragonfly; males grow to 76 mm (3.0 in) in length with a wingspan up to 80 mm (3.1 in).[9][10]

Females oviposit in aquatic vegetation, eggs laid beneath the water surface. Nymphs (naiads) are aquatic carnivores, feeding on insects, tadpoles, and small fish. Adult darners catch insects on the wing, including ant alates, moths, mosquitoes, and flies.


Dru Drury described this species as Libellula junius in 1773.[11] There are not currently any recognized subspecies. There are three recognized synonyms: Anax spiniferus Rambur, 1842; Anax ocellatus Hagen, 1867; Anax severus Hagen, 1867.[3]


Common green darners are commonly found throughout the continental United States and southern Canada, occasionally ranging as far south as Panama, particularly in the winter.[12] There are also populations in Hawaii and the Caribbean. Vagrant individuals have been seen far outside of their normal range including sightings in Alaska, Russia, China, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, India, and Bermuda. These vagrant sightings are likely migrating individuals blown off-course by strong winds or storms.[9]


Common green darners are large dragonflies, ranging from 6.8 to 8 centimetres (2.7 to 3.1 in)[13] in length and a wingspan of up to 10 centimetres (3.9 in).[12] Both sexes have an unmarked green thorax. Mature males have bluish-purple abdomens (the first few abdominal segments are the brightest) with a black dorsal stripe that broadens near the end of the abdomen. Immature males and most females have reddish-brown abdomens, but some females are patterned like adult males. Wings are initially clear but usually become amber-tinted with age, especially in females.[12][9] Both sexes have a black ‘bulls-eye’ mark on the face (more precisely, the frons) in front of their eyes, a distinguishing field mark that separates them from the superficially similar comet darner (Anax longipes).[14][12] This species oviposits in tandem which is a unique behavior among North American darners.[14][12]

Natural history[edit]

Diet and predators[edit]

Both the adult and the nymphal stage are predators. Nymphs prey upon immature aquatic insects (including conspecifics), small crustaceans, small tadpoles, and even small fish. Adults primarily prey on winged insects, including wasps, flies, butterflies, and other Odonates. The primary predators of common green darner nymphs are fish. Adults are preyed upon by birds and occasionally robber flies, spiders, and other large dragonflies.[9]


Nymphs develop in lakes, ponds, and slow streams and rivers.[12] Adults are most frequently seen around nymph habitat but they are strong fliers and can be found in a wide variety of habitats including grasslands, forests, and urban areas.[9]


There are several species of migratory dragonflies in North America, but common green darners are the best studied.[15] Other migratory species include:

The large geographic range and migratory behavior of the common green darner has made it a challenge to piece together its complex life history. Recent research has indicated that the annual life cycle of Anax junius is likely composed of at least three different generations.[8] The first generation emerges in the southern end of its range in early spring and migrates northwards through spring and summer. The second generation emerges in the northern end of its range in summer and migrates southwards in fall. The third generation occurs in the south during the winter and does not migrate. Common green darners migrate in fall and spring but for several reasons the southward movement in fall is more noticeable.[15]  

By attaching micro-radio transmitters to common green darners, researchers have found them to be capable of migrating up to 140 kilometres (87 mi) in a day, though they typically cover less distance per day. A group of researchers used stable isotope analysis on individuals collected between Ontario and Mexico during fall and documented that >90% of individuals moved southward, with an average distance of 900 kilometers.[15]

A study published in 2019 attached miniaturized radio transmitters to common green darners in the Great Lakes region and tracked their movement with the Motus Wildlife Tracking System. Individuals moved at an average groundspeed of 16 kilometres per hour (9.9 mph).[16]



  1. ^ Cirrus Digital Anax junius
  2. ^ Paulson, D.R. (2018). "Anax junius". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018: e.T165081A65831504. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-1.RLTS.T165081A65831504.en. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  3. ^ a b "Common Green Darner". Project BioLib. 2023. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  4. ^ "Anax junius Drury, 1773". Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  5. ^ Dunkle, Sidney W. (2000). Dragonflies through Binoculars: A Field Guide to Dragonflies of North America. Oxford University Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-19-972729-2.
  6. ^ Eaton, Eric R.; Kaufman, Kenn (2006). Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-618-15310-7.
  7. ^ Evans, Arthur V. (2007). Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. p. 62. ISBN 978-1-4027-4153-1.
  8. ^ a b Hallworth, Michael T.; Marra, Peter P.; McFarland, Kent P.; Zahendra, Sara; Studds, Colin E. (2018). "Tracking dragons: stable isotopes reveal the annual cycle of a long-distance migratory insect". Biology Letters. 14 (12): 20180741. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2018.0741. PMC 6303508. PMID 30958242.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Miner, Angela (2014). Martina, Leila Siciliano (ed.). "Anax junius". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  10. ^ Hahn, Jeffrey (2009). Insects of the North Woods. Kollath+Stensaas Publishing. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-9792006-4-9.
  11. ^ "World Odonata List · University of Puget Sound". Retrieved 2021-11-07.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Paulson, Dennis (2012). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  13. ^ "Species Anax junius - Common Green Darner". Retrieved 2021-10-26.
  14. ^ a b "Wisconsin Odonata Survey: Anax junius". Retrieved 2021-10-26.
  15. ^ a b c d May, Michael L. (2013-02-01). "A critical overview of progress in studies of migration of dragonflies (Odonata: Anisoptera), with emphasis on North America". Journal of Insect Conservation. 17 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1007/s10841-012-9540-x. S2CID 15916175.
  16. ^ Knight, Samantha M.; Pitman, Grace M.; Flockhart, D. T. Tyler; Norris, D. Ryan (2019-07-26). "Radio-tracking reveals how wind and temperature influence the pace of daytime insect migration". Biology Letters. 15 (7): 20190327. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2019.0327. PMC 6684972. PMID 31266418.

External links[edit]

Media related to Anax junius at Wikimedia Commons