This is a most inquisitive dragonfly and will often fly up close to the face of someone walking along a path in its territory.
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.
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.
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.
The Southern Hawker breeds in garden ponds as well as in canals and lakes.
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.
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.
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).
This page includes pictures kindly contributed by James Wainscoat.
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