home

Aeshna cyanea - Southern Hawker

Phylum: Arthropoda - Class: Insecta - Order: Odonata - Family: Aeschnidae

Aeshna cyanea, Southern Hawker dragonfly, male

This is a most inquisitive dragonfly and will often fly up close to the face of someone walking along a path in its territory.

Description

The male (see picture above) has mostly greenish spots along its upper abdomen apart from segments 8, which has blue spots, and segments 9 and 10, which have blue partial bands. There are also blue spots on the sides of the abdomen. The abdomen is slim and it is distinctly waisted just below the junction with the thorax.

Aeshna cyanea, Southern Hawker dragonfly

Females (see picture above) have slightly broader abdomens than males but are otherwise quite similar except that they have only green spots and complete bands on segments 9 and 10.

Aeshna cyanea, Southern Hawker dragonfly
Above: a newly-emerged male Southern Hawker resting on leaves of Yellow Flag Iris.

Distribution

The Southern Hawker is a very common sight in summer throughout England and Wales. This dragonfly is less common in the north and occurs in just a few locations in northern Scotland. There are no colonies of this dragonfly known in Ireland. On mainland Europe the Southern Hawker is most common in the central region, but its longitudinal range extends from southern Scandinavia right down into North Africa and its range eastwards extends into parts of Asia.

Habitat

The Southern Hawker breeds in garden ponds as well as in canals and lakes.

Closeup of head and thorax, Aeshna cyanea, Southern Hawker dragonfly

The head and thorax of a newly-emerged Southern Hawker.

Mainly seen flying over ponds, canals or slow-flowing streams or hawking along leafy country lanes, like other members of the Aeshna genus this beautiful insect flies for long periods without resting, which makes it a difficult creature to study and photograph.

Life Cycle

In Britain the Southern Hawker can usually be seen on the wing from mid June to mid October. The female lays her eggs in summer and early autumn by stabbing her ovipositor into rotting decaying marginal vegetation or rotting wood. The eggs lie dormant through the winter and then hatch in the following spring.

Larva of Aeshna cyanea, Southern Hawker dragonfly

Southern Hawker nymphs take three years to reach maturity, during which time they feed on small invertebrates including the nymphs and larvae of other insects as well as tadpoles and, when they can catch them, newborn newts (known as efts).

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by James Wainscoat.


Dead Drift, the latest novel by Pat O'Reilly

Fascinated by rivers, lakes and wild trout? Then you would really enjoy Pat O'Reilly's latest river-based thriller Dead Drift. All publisher profits and author royalties are being donated to support the Wild Trout Trust, helping communities to restore and protect wild trout populations and their habitats. Order your copy here...

Other nature books from First Nature...

© 1995 - 2021 First Nature: a not-for-profit volunteer-run resource

Please help to keep this free resource online...

Terms of use - Privacy policy - Disable cookies - Links policy