Outdoor Radio: Dragonflies on the Move

Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens) in flight. / © Bryan Pfeiffer

Some birds migrate. So do salmon. Even Monarch butterflies float to better climates. But did you know that some dragonflies migrate too? This month on Outdoor Radiobiologists Kent McFarland and Sara Zahendra are joined by dragonfly expert Bryan Pfeiffer at the North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier in an effort to find and maybe catch a migrant dragonfly.

The late summer heat and humidity has brought a huge influx of Wandering Gliders to Vermont. These migratory dragonflies follow weather patterns and storm systems, allowing them to cross great distances. The Wandering Glider is the global insect long-distance champion, with some making flights across the Indian Ocean that cover twice the distance of Monarch butterfly migrations here in North America.

Dragonfly migrations have been observed on every continent except Antarctica, with some species performing spectacular long-distance mass movements. Here in North America, we may have as many as 18 migratory dragonfly species; some engage in annual seasonal migrations, while others are more sporadic migrants. In late summer and fall, thousands to millions of dragonflies move from southward.

Also in this podcast, Sara and Kent discuss how they’ve tracked the migratory patterns of Green Darner dragonflies by examining the chemistry of their wings. They’ve found dragonflies in Florida whose chemistry comes from the waters of New England, and vice versa. The results reveal in detail their continent-wide annual migrations each year that rival the Monarch butterfly!

Listen to the show and keep your eyes on the skies for migrant dragonflies!

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Outdoor Radio is produced in collaboration with Vermont Public Radio.

Sara, Bryan, and Kent hot, tired, and elated after chasing Wandering Gliders on the wing.

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