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Wild About Illinois Dragonflies!

Dragonflies and damselflies are insects in the Order Odonata. They have two pairs of long, membranous wings with many veins in them. The forewings and hindwings are usually similar in size but in some species the hindwing is broader at the base than the forewing. The abdomen is long and thin. The eyes are compound and very large in relation to the size of the head. The antennae are short and hairlike. The mouthparts are for chewing, and these insects are predators. The life cycle consists of egg, nymph and adult.

Nymphs are aquatic. They eat insects and other small animals. Depending upon the species, their gills are either in the rectum or external at the tip of the abdomen.

Adults are accomplished fliers that may travel many miles from their aquatic habitat. They often fly paired, with the male holding the female by the head or thorax with appendages at the tip of his abdomen. Eggs are either laid on aquatic plants or washed from the female’s abdomen into the water. The adults feed on insects that they catch in flight.

Dragonfly Family and Species Gallery

Dragonflies have the base of the hindwings broader than the base of the forewings. The body is generally stout, and the wings are held outstretched (not closed together above the back) when at rest. The male has three appendages at the tip of the abdomen. The female has two appendages at the tip of the abdomen. Some female dragonflies have an ovipositor. Nymphs have internal gills.

Kingdom: Animalia - Animals are multicellular organisms that rely on other organisms for nourishment. Their cells do not have cell walls. Most animals are capable of movement at least in some portion of their life cycle. Reproduction is generally sexual, but in some animals asexual reproduction may be utilized at certain times.
Phylum: Arthropoda - Arthropods have an external skeleton, a segmented body and jointed appendages. They are covered with a cuticle made of chitin. The cuticle is hard and must be molted, or shed, for the animal to be able to grow. Compound and simple eyes are present. They have an open circulatory system. There are nearly 28,000 types of arthropods known from Illinois. They are represented in all Illinois habitats.
Class: Insecta - Insects have three body divisions, the head, thorax and abdomen. They usually have three pairs of legs and two pairs of wings. Legs and wings are positioned on the thorax. Most insects have one pair of antennae. A few insect species have no antennae.<
Order: Odonata - Dragonflies and damselflies have a long body and four long, thin wings. When not being used for flight, the wings are held flat out from the body or above the body. The eyes are very large while the antennae are tiny.
Family: Aeshnidae - These dragonflies are in the family commonly known as darners. This family contains the largest dragonflies in North America. They fly swiftly, and their body color is usually dark brown with marks of green, blue or a combination of these colors. The eyes are large and touch in the middle of the dorsal side of the head. The triangular section in each wing is approximately the same shape and in the same location. The ovipositor of the female is well-developed, and she has two appendages at the tip of the abdomen. The male has three appendages at the tip of the abdomen.

These species are usually found around ponds and swamps. The wings are held outstretched when not flying. The nymph has gills in the rectum and breathes by drawing water in through the anus, then expelling the water. This method can also be used to propel the nymph through the water. Like all dragonflies, the adults and nymphs are predators. Members of this family can be found statewide in Illinois.
     Canada darner (Aeshna canadensis)
     mottled darner (Aeshna clepsydra)
     lance-tipped darner (Aeshna constricta)
     shadow darner (Aeshna umbrosa umbrosa)
     green-striped darner (Aeshna verticalis)
     common green darner (Anax junius)
     comet darner (Anax longipes)
     springtime darner (Basiaeschna janata)
     fawn darner (Boyeria vinosa)
     swamp darner (Epiaeschna heros)
     Cyrano darner (Nasiaeschna pentacantha)
     spatterdock darner (Rhionaeschna mutata)

Family: Cordulegastridae - Cordulegastrid dragonflies are commonly known as spiketails or biddies. “Spiketail” refers to the female’s ovipositor that is easily seen. The body of these dragonflies is long and thin. Body coloration is brown or black with yellow markings. The triangular section in each wing is approximately the same shape and in the same location. The eyes are large and touch at a single point in the middle of the dorsal side of the head. Spiketails are often found around water in forests.
     brown spiketail (Cordulegaster bilineata)
     delta-spotted spiketail (Cordulegaster diastatops)
     tiger spiketail (Cordulegaster erronea)
     arrowhead spiketail (Cordulegaster obliqua)

Family: Corduliidae - Green-eyed skimmers are the dragonflies of this family. The body is usually black or some metallic shade and rarely has light marks. As the common name suggests, the eyes of the adult are bright green. Most of the species have clear wings or clear wings with only a small, dark spot, but there are exceptions. The female does not have an ovipositor. Adults are most often encountered around aquatic habitats without a current, such as ponds and swamps.
     racket-tailed emerald (Dorocordulia libera)
     striped-winged baskettail (Epitheca costalis)
     common baskettail (Epitheca cynosura)
     prince baskettail (Epitheca princeps)
     spiny baskettail (Epitheca spinigera)
     smoky shadowdragon (Neurocordulia molesta)
     umber shadowdragon (Neurocordulia obsoleta)
     orange shadowdragon (Neurocordulia xanthosoma)
     Stygian shadowdragon (Neurocordulia yamaskanensis)
     Hine's emerald (Somatochlora hineana)
     mocha emerald (Somatochlora linearis)
     clamp-tipped emerald (Somatochlora tenebrosa)

Family: Gomphidae - Dragonflies of the Family Gomphidae are often referred to as “clubtails.” The common name “clubtails” comes from the enlarged segments at the tip of the abdomen that are present in some species. The body is dark brown with green or yellow marks. The edges of the compound eyes do not touch in the middle of the head as they do in some other dragonfly families. The female does not have an ovipositor. These species are found around streams and large lakes. They generally do not hover.
     horned clubtail (Arigomphus cornutus)
     lilypad clubtail (Arigomphus furcifer)
     stillwater clubtail (Arigomphus lentulus)
     bayou clubtail Arigomphus maxwelli)
     jade clubtail (Arigomphus submedianus)
     unicorn clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes)
     black-shouldered spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus)
     flag-tailed spinyleg (Dromogomphus spoliatus)
     eastern ringtail (Erpetogomphus designatus)
     plains clubtail (Gomphurus externus)
     midland clubtail (Gomphurus fraternus)
     cocoa clubtail (Gomphurus hybridus)
     splendid clubtail (Gomphurus lineatifrons)
     cobra clubtail (Gomphurus vastus)
     dragonhunter (Hagenius brevistylus)
     rusty snaketail (Ophiogomphus rupinsulensis)
     harpoon clubtail (Phanogomphus descriptus)
     lancet clubtail (Phanogomphus exilis)
     pronghorn clubtail (Phanogomphus graslinellus)
     ashy clubtail (Phanogomphus lividus)
     sulphur-tipped clubtail (Phanogomphus militaris)
     rapids clubtail (Phanogomphus quadricolor)
     common sand dragon (Phanogomphus spicatus)
     dusky clubtail (Progomphus obscurus)
     riverine clubtail (Stylurus amnicola)
     elusive clubtail (Stylurus notatus)
     russet-tipped clubtail (Stylurus plagiatus)
     arrow clubtail (Stylurus spiniceps)

Family: Libellulidae - The common skimmer dragonflies are a large group with many species that are regularly observed. The wingspan is much greater than the body length. In some species the males and females have different coloration. The color of the wings varies by species. The female does not have an ovipositor. Most of the species live near ponds and swamps. These dragonflies move quickly and do hover.
     calico pennant (Celithemis elisa)
     Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina)
     banded pennant (Celithemis fasciata)
     double-ringed pennant (Celithemis verna)
     stream crusier (Didymops transversa)
     checkered setwing (Dythemis fugax)
     swift setwing (Dythemis velox)
     eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)
     little blue dragonlet (Erythrodiplax minuscula)
     band-winged dragonlet (Erythrodiplax umbrata)
     blue corporal (Ladona deplanata)
     chalk-fronted corporal (Ladona julia)
     frosted whiteface (Leucorrhinia frigida)
     dot-tailed whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta)
     golden-winged skimmer (Libellula auripennis)
     spangled skimmer (Libellula cyanea)
     yellow-sided skimmer (Libellula flavida)
     slaty skimmer (Libellula incesta)
     widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)
     twelve-spotted skimmer (Libellula pulchella)
     four-spotted skimmer (Libellula quadrimaculata)
     painted skimmer (Libellula semifasciata)
     great blue skimmer (Libellula vibrans)
     elfin skimmer (Nannothemis bella)
     blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)
     wandering glider (Pantala flavescens)
     spot-winged glider (Pantala hymenaea)
     eastern amberwing (Perithemis tenera)
     common whitetail (Plathemis lydia)
     blue-faced meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum)
     variegated meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum)
     saffron-winged meadowhawk (Sympetrum costiferum)
     black meadowhawk (Sympetrum danae)
     cherry-faced meadowhawk (Sympetrum internum)
     white-faced meadowhawk (Sympetrum obtrusum)
     ruby meadowhawk (Sympetrum rubicundulum)
     band-winged meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum)
     Autumn meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum)
     striped saddlebags (Tramea calverti)
     Carolina saddlebags (Tramea carolina)
     black saddlebags (Tramea lacerata)
     red saddlebags (Tramea onusta)

Family: Macromiidae - The dragonflies in this group are commonly called belted skimmers or river skimmers. The wings do not have bands or spots. The female does not have an ovipositor. Belted skimmers are generally brown with light marks on the thorax. River skimmers are black with yellow marks on the thorax and abdomen. Adults have green eyes. Belted skimmers are found around pond shores and are not common. River skimmers live at large lakes and streams. These dragonflies fly fast.
     Alleghaneny River cruiser (Macromia alleghaniensis)
     Georgia River cruiser (Macromia illinoiensis georgina)
     Illinois River cruiser (Macromia illinoiensis illinoiensis)
     Gilded River cruiser (Macromia pacifica)
     Royal River cruiser (Macromia taeniolata)
     gray petaltail (Tachopteryx thoreyi)