Black Saddlebags Dragonfly/ Female
Dragonflies are among the most ancient of living creatures. Fossil records, clearly recognizable as the ancestors of our present day odonates, go back to Carboniferous a time which means that the insects were flying more than 300 million years ago; predating dinosaurs by over 100 million years and birds by some 150 million.
The black saddlebags dragonfly can be found almost everywhere in the United States except in some extreme northern areas of the country. It ranges south to Baja California and Mexico and is also found on Hawaii, the Florida Keys, Bermuda and Cuba. It can be seen as far north as Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia in Canada.
The black saddlebags' hind wings are quite long and wide, with the eponymous iridescent black bands. Besides these markings, the rest of the wing is clear. I consider black saddlebags to be a rather large dragonfly (it's about 50mm long), though not quite as large as the green darner. The males are predominately black, with deeper coloring than the females who are larger, and possess a whitish-yellow spotted pattern on the dorsal side of their abdomen (a trait shared by newborn males as well.) Females and the young also have a lighter face, almost yellow in color that distinguishes them from the males. Both genders have black legs.
The black saddlebags, glides through the air using its broadened hind wings, and feeds predominantly on small flying insects. When food is amply available in a particular area, feeding swarms may be formed; sometimes of only males, but never with just females.
*Image: I took this image on the “Trail of the Trees” at the James River Visitors Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
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