This article first appeared in the July 1997 IPS (Internet Pond Society) On-line Newsletter
pond dragonflies <!-- This document was created with HomeSite 2.5 --> <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 3.2 Final//EN"> <HTML> <HEAD> <TITLE>Pond Jewelry by Kathy Biggs

Pond Jewelry
by Kathy Biggs

Kathy (at

Dragonflies have been called the JEWELS OF THE POND and I'd like to introduce you to some of those most likely to be found at your pond and also share with you some of the Internet sites that you'll find useful in identifying and learning more about These Pond Treasures!

One of the best ways to learn about and identify dragonflies is to visit a dragonfly Internet Website from your area. Hopefully you'll find a link to one near you in this article. Let me introduce you to some of the "JEWELS":

These beauties represent the species that is probably the very most common dragonfly across the United States and Canada. The Green Darner (Anax junius) is one of the fastest and largest dragonflies, with a body length of 3inches and a wingspan of over 4 inches. This picture by Roy Beckemeyer is from the cover of Checklist of Kansas Dragonflies by the Kansas School Naturalist: Feb. 1997. This tandem pair will lay their eggs in a nearby pond. The nymph that hatches will spend a year in your pond and eventually will look like this one pictured here by Mark A. McPeek at Michigan State U.
The darners, like all other dragonflies, spend most of their lives as nymphs in our ponds and only a short time as dragons on wings.

Another colorful jewel, common across the USA west of Kansas, is the Flame Skimmer (Libellula saturata). It is also featured on my Jewelry title by Stevem. At 2½ inches, with an orange-red body, head and eyes, its activity around the pond adds zest to any site. A similar dragonfly, the Neon Skimmer has red on the wings also, but only near the body, not out to the slight bend in the wing (nodus). This photo is from Ron Lyons at Checklist of Odonata of California. Last February, Ron wrote a great article about dragonflies and their lives for the IPS "Critters" column. Read his DAMSELS AND DRAGONS -THE INSECT ORDER ODONATA to learn A LOT more about their fascinating lives.

The Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) is just about my favorite dragonfly. They are about 2 inches long with a wingspan of 3 inches. The males stake out a territory at our pond and then spend many hours chasing away anything blue that comes along! . . . even if the blue thing is my son's baseball cap! This cutie's picture is from Blair Nikula's Ode News site in Cape Cod. Blair has over 100 photos of Odonata (the scientific name for dragonflies and damselflies) on his site! He also has links to many other dragonfly sites and has just about the best collection of damselfly pictures I've found anywhere. Damselflies are the smaller, weaker cousins of the dragonflies, with slender bodies. Maybe I'll do an article on them some time soon if there is any interest. Let me know!

Colorful wings are the hallmark of the Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella). There are other "spot-winged" dragonflies also. To determine if yours is a 4, 8, or 12 spot, count the black spots on one wing and multiply by 4. The Twelve-spotted occurs throughout most of the USA and is a little over 2 inches long with a wingspan of just over 3 inches. This skimmer likes to rest on lily pads or other plants overhanging the water. Stuart Tingley took this photo and has it on his Dragonflies and Damselflies of New Brunswick website.

The Cardinal Meadowhawk (Sympetrum illotum) pictured here from my California Dragonfly site is found west of Wyoming. It is BRIGHT red and the same size as the Blue Dasher, with whom it shares the propensity to rest with its wings held forward. As in most species, the female is a duller color and spends less time at the pond.

This is a scanned real live dragonfly from Forrest Mitchell's Digital Dragonflies site! To do this he placed the live Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) in a cut out area in a mouse pad and ran it thru his flat-bed scanner! The 2 inch long Widow flies through-out Canada and the USA. They are slow fliers with disproportionately large wings (wingspan to over 3 inches) which really make them look huge as they cruise our ponds.

This Four-spotted Skimmer (Libellula quadrimaculata) ranges from Labrador to Arizona and north to Alaska! At a little over 2 inches, it is not quite as large as some of the others. This photo is provided by Dennis Paulson at his Dragonflies of Idaho site. He also has several Washington Odonata sites and provides a key that is helpful when you can't decide which species you have.

Well, I'd love to show you more but I have to stop at some point, so just because I haven't included a Yellow Jewel yet, here one is: this female Saffron-winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum costiferum) by Blair Nikula from his Massachusetts site is the most brilliant color!

I hope you've enjoyed looking at these pieces of Pond Jewelry and that the article has helped you to appreciate those at your pond. I should mention that Dragonflies have only recently been given Common Names that are recognized everywhere, so if you look at a book and the common name is different, it just means that the book was written before August of 1996!

A few very helpful websites I have not yet provided links to in this article are listed below.

Bob Barker's Odonatology Home Page

Mark O'Brien's Odonata Photo Archive

Happy web-surfing! Happy Summer! And remember to treat you pond as a valuable habitat for wetland species.

Here's a piece of REAL pond dragonfly jewelry!