Common Green Darner

A large four-winged insect with green and blue coloration flying in a meadow.

NPS/Gordon Dietzman


This very large dragonfly has two different strategies for surviving Minnesota winters. A part of their population migrates to the Gulf Coast. Once in the south, they breed, lay eggs, and then die. Their young hatch, live underwater as naiads (sometimes called "nymphs"), emerge as adults and then migrate back to the upper Midwest in spring.

Their second strategy is to lay their eggs in the north with the new generation of darners surviving the winter under the ice of ponds as naiads. In spring they emerge from their ponds and begin their lives as adults.They are among the first of our dragonflies to reappear in spring, even when temperatures are still chilly.

Many cold-blooded animals, including dragonflies, have difficulty being active when the air temperatures are cold. This dragonfly, however, will shiver its wings and the large flight muscles in its thorax produce so much heat that the insect's temperature may rise to 110 degrees Fahrenheit!

Watch for Behavior

The common green darner pair lays eggs in tandem, with the male using the claspers at the end of his abdomen to grip the female's neck. They then fly to a pond together and alight on emergent vegetation. The female then dips the tip of her abdomen in the water, pierces a plant stem and deposits an egg.

Also notice that the green thorax is translucent, permitting a careful observer to see the internal struts that brace the thorax against the power of the wing muscles.


Key ID Features: 3" body. Bright green thorax. Males have bright blue tails and females, when mature, have a grayish tails. Immatures of both genders have reddish tails.

Present in Park: Mid-April to mid-October. Watch for them around small ponds and upland areas throughout the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Since they migrate, they can be found in unexpected places, including the downtown metro areas.

Habitat: Breeds in ponds and very slowly moving water.

Last updated: December 4, 2017

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