A Brand-New Dragonfly

While we were frolicking on the shore of Lake Superior we came across something I’d never seen before.

A young dragonfly, just emerged from its nymph stage, still resting on a rock and drying its wings in preparation for flight. (At first I wasn’t one hundred percent sure this was a dragonfly, given the damselfy-like way its wings were folded across its back at this point, but they spread out as they dried.) While doing a little research in preparation for writing this post I learned that there’s a technical term for that cast-off exoskeleton still visible next to it: the exuvia.

I don’t know anything about identifying dragonflies, but when no one answered my initial “ID Request” posting to BugGuide I resorted to trying to figure it out myself. It was the Wikipedia article on dragonflies that finally helped me get it to family level, because it mentioned that the only family of dragonflies whose eyes don’t meet in the middle are clubtails. Ta-da! After that it was merely a matter of browsing through the clubtail photos on BugGuide until I found something that matched. This is, I believe, an Eastern Least Clubtail, Stylogomphus albistylus. Many of the images showed a much darker-colored and more boldly-marked dragonfly, but I finally figured out that apparently their color changes as they dry and become flight-worthy.

I’d seen dragonfly nymphs before, and I’d seen adult dragonflies before, but I’d never seen one just past that moment of transition like this. Very cool.

15 replies on “A Brand-New Dragonfly”

I saw something I thought might be a newly minted dragonfly last weekend. It flew at me when I was kayaking right next to the shoreline on the Catawba river, looking at some flowers. I think it landed on my hat and hung on, ’cause about 20 minutes later, on the other side of the river and way upstream, I saw the same one! It landed on my paddle, then flew about 3 feet before dropping into the water. I circled around and around until I was finally able to fish it out of the water and deliver it to shore (learning that these sit-on-top kayaks don’t turn on a dime!)

I assumed it was a “baby” dragonfly, as it didn’t seem to be able to fly very well, but maybe it was an adult something else. It was a pale flesh color, but its wings were much narrower than this one. I haven’t looked at any guides, and don’t know enough about dragon- and other -flies to have taken note of any important features. And I didn’t have my camera with me…so now I just have a cool story. :)

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