Aeschna cyanea - Southern Hawker

Phylum: Arthropoda - Class: Insecta - Order: Odonata - Family: Aeschnidae

Aeschna cyanea, Southern Hawker dragonfly
Above: a newly-emerged male Southern Hawker resting on leaves of Yellow Flag Iris.

The Southern Hawker is a very common sight in summer throughout England and Wales, where it breeds in garden ponds as well as canals and lakes. This dragonfly is less common in the north and occurs in just a few locations of northern Scotland. There are no colonies of this dragonfly known in Ireland. In Britain it can usually be seen on the wing from mid June to early October.

Closeup of head and thorax, Aeschna cyanea, Southern Hawker dragonfly
The head and thorax of a newly-emerged Southern Hawker.

The male has mostly green spots along its upper abdomen apart from segments 8, 9 and 10, which have blue spots. There are also blue spots on the sides. Females have broader abdomens than males but are otherwise quite similar except that they have only green spots.

Mainly seen over ponds, canals or slow-flowing streams, like other members of the Aeschna genus this beautiful insect flies for long periods without resting, which makes it a difficult creature to study and photograph.

The female lays her eggs in summer and early autumn, by stabbing her ovipositor into rotting decaying marginal vegetation or rotting wood. The eggs lie dormant through bathe winter and then hatch in the following spring. Southern Hawker nymphs take three years to reach maturity, during which time they feed on small invertebrates including the nymphs and larvae of other insects as well as tadpoles and, when they can catch them, newborn newts (known as efts).

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