What has a sleek metallic green body, yellow racing stripes along it’s sides, both speed and agility, but won’t be found on a race track? The Hine’s emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora hineana)! A highlight of any walk in the forest preserves is witnessing the vibrant colors and expert flying skills of the Hine’s emerald dragonfly. Here are five additional facts about these fascinating insects:
- Dragonflies have been around since the Triassic and Jurassic periods, but due to habitat destruction, pollution, and a lack of quality water in the habitat, the Hines emerald dragonfly was listed as an endangered species in 1995. It is the only dragonfly on the endangered species list.
- Illinois is one of only four states where Hines emerald dragonflies are currently found. The others are Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin.
- The perfect habitat for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly is calcium-rich, spring-fed marshes and sedge meadows. This habitat is ideal for the adult males to fly around and defend small breeding territories while the females find shallow water to lay their eggs (generally between May and August).
- When the Hines emerald dragonfly’s eggs are hatched, the dragonfly nymphs—or baby dragonflies—emerge . These nymphs have gills and a large hinged lower lip. The nymphs live in the water for two to four years. They molt (shed their skin) numerous times and feed on aquatic insects until they become adults.
- The adult Hine’s emerald dragonfly is 2.5 inches long with a wingspan of about 3.3 inches (in prehistoric times, dragonflies could have a wingspan of 29 inches). As adults, they live for about one month, in which they mate and start the life cycle over again. They also play a predatory role in that month, as they catch and eat small flying insects like mosquitos, biting flies and gnats.
Want to learn more about dragonflies and other local wildlife? Visit one of the Forest Preserves’ six nature education centers to talk to a naturalist!