Atlas of Vermont Dragonflies Updated

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A rare Spatterdock Darner accidentally discovered and reported to iNaturalist Vermont.

A rare Spatterdock Darner accidentally discovered and reported to iNaturalist Vermont./ © humanekt

The atlas of dragonflies and damselflies of Vermont has been updated at Odonata Central by the Vermont Atlas of Life. Two new discoveries in 2014 now brings the total number of Odonata, the order of insects containing dragonflies and damselflies, to 142 species.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of odonate experts Mike Blust and Bryan Pfeiffer, the atlas covers the distribution of all 142 species known from Vermont, including all of the resident and regular migrant species, as well as all known vagrants – individual insects appearing well outside their normal range. Blust and Pfeiffer conducted fieldwork across Vermont for years, with the help of other enthusiasts, and compiled an amazing dataset of Vermont’s odonates. Their work will soon be published in Dragonfly Society of the Americas journal Bulletin of Odonatology.

Since 2013, biologists and citizen naturalists with the Vermont Atlas of Life have contributed new records to the effort through iNaturalist Vermont and directly to Odonata Central. And there have been some remarkable finding over the last few seasons.

Spatterdock Darner (Rhionaeschna mutata) was first found by Mike Blust in far southern Vermont in 2005. As the name suggests, this dragonfly is typically found near ponds that have Yellow Water Lily, also called Spatterdock. This rare insect, considered an S1 species (critically endangered) in Vermont, is now known from two more sites, thanks to reports made by citizen naturalists to iNaturalist Vermont, including one record that was accidental.

An iNaturalist Vermont user hit a dragonfly with her car. While trying to save the dragonfly, she took a photograph of it sitting on her hand. She posted her photo-observation to iNaturalist Vermont thinking it was the similar, and more common, Shadow Darner (Aeshna umbrosa). But Bryan Pfeiffer immediately noticed it and identified it as the 3rd known record of Spatterdock Darner in Vermont.

Vermont's first Banded Pennant. / © Laura Gaudette

Vermont’s first Banded Pennant. / © Laura Gaudette

The summer of 2014 was a season of discovery for Vermont odonata. Laura Gaudette posted a photograph of a Banded Pennant (Celithemis fasciata) on iNaturalist Vermont. Mike Blust was reviewing records on the site and immediately posted a note saying, “Congratulations Laura!!!!! You just got yourself a state record! Another southern species moving north.”

Close-up of Vermont's first River Bluet. / © Mike Blust

Close-up of Vermont’s first River Bluet. / © Mike Blust

Just 9 days later Laura joined Mike in an expedition to the under-surveyed Orange County, Vermont. They discovered a new damselfly for Vermont on the Ompompanoosuc River in Thetford, a River Bluet (Enallagma anna), and posted it to iNaturalist Vermont. It was quickly verified by another expert thanks to Mike’s close-up images of the important parts. Without Mike’s expertise, this damselfly may have gone completely unnoticed.

In addition to the 142 species known from Vermont today, there are two species that have been reported from Vermont, but lack verification (Great Spreadwing – Archilestes grandis and Gray PetaltailTachopteryx thoreyi ) , and one species that was found just outside of Vermont on an island in the Connecticut River (Common Sanddragon – Progomphus obscurus).

You can help us find new species in Vermont and record and map all the dragonflies and damselflies, rare or common. This year, join a field trip and learn, take digital photographs and submit your observations to Odonata Central or to iNaturalist Vermont, a project of the Vermont Atlas of Life. There is much to discover about biodiversity in our own backyards.

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Comments (12)

  1. Dina says:

    Great effort, look forward to reading more about the efforts to map all the Odonates at a statewide level. Have other states completed an Odonate Atlas?

  2. Tayloe says:

    Awesome work, thanks for this! Couple questions/comments:

    When trying to access the link above for the Odonatacentral.org site, keep getting this error message: “Fatal error: Call to undefined method DB_Error::query() in /var/www/odonata/OdonataCentral/stratos/plugins/StratosData/drivers/StratosDataDriver_DB.php on line 482”

    Also, being from Missouri now in Indiana, I’d love to see anything for the MidWestern states? (thanks for the ME, NH, and NY links!)

  3. Kelly Stettner says:

    Yesterday, I collected 15 exuviae of what appear to be fawn darners (Boyeria vinosa) from an eastern-facing bridge abutment on the Black River, about 2 miles up from the confluence with the CT River, in Springfield, Vermont. Any interest in some cool photos? I took some on my porch, and some through my dissecting scope in my basement.

  4. John Johnson says:

    My wife and I spent a couple of hours on top of Stratton Mt around Labor day and were surprised at how friendly some dragonflys appeared to be. We found a place out of the wind to have lunch and the dragonflys would come within one foot of us and just hover, I put my hand out to see if they would land but that didn’t happen.

    • Many of those might have been migrant dragonflies. Several species move southward in fall. Others come up to elevation hunting insects. They are amazing to see in swarms hunting tiny insects. If you have a photo of one, we might be able to identify the species.

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