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.
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.”
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 Petaltail – Tachopteryx 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.