Dragonflies of Alaska


Did you know that Alaska has an official State Insect? No, it's not the mosquito! Or even one of our beautiful butterflies. It's an attractive and beneficial dragonfly, called a Four-spotted Skimmer. That decision was made in 1995, after some strenuous lobbying by students from the elementary school in Aniak. Although it's not one of the biggest or most colorful, it is a common dragonfly, and widespread in the State.

Dragonflies are truly marvels of the natural world. They've been on this earth for about 300 million years, so they must be doing something right. Although some people are afraid of them, they do not bite or sting. Watching them dart through the air, eating mosquitos and other annoying insects, makes you appreciate them. But looking at them up close reveals intricate design that is quite stunning.



Dragonfly Images:

Click on the thumbnail pix to see larger images. In some cases, there are choices of views or sizes.
Feel free to use any of the images in your website, but please properly credit them.
All photos are by Mary Hopson, an amateur photographer using amateur equipment.


Four-spotted Skimmer
Libellula quadrimaculata
dorsal view, big or medium

Four-spotted Skimmer
Libellula quadrimaculata
closeup side view

Boreal Whiteface
Leucorrhinia borealis
big or medium photo

Hudsonian Whiteface
Leucorrhinia hudsonica
big dorsal view or medium side view

4 spotted dorsal

4 spotted closeup

boreal whiteface

hudsonian whiteface

Belted Whiteface
(Red Waisted Whiteface)
Leucorrhinia proxima
big or medium

Sedge Darner
Aeshna juncea
side, top, face

Variable Darner
Aeshna interrupta
dorsal view or side view

Paddle-tailed Darner
Aeshna palmata
dorsal view or side view

red-waisted whiteface

sedge darner

variable darner

paddle_tailed darner

Black Meadowhawk, teneral
Sympetrum danae
dorsal view or side view

Dragonflies spend their early stages in water, first as eggs, then as larvae (naiads). When they first emerge from the water, transformed into adults with wings, they are usually lighter colored, with shimmering wings. At that point, they are called tenerals. The dragonfly at left is a teneral Black Meadowhawk. At right, you'll find photos of the same species as it darkens. Males get almost completely black, but females keep some of that golden color. Many dragonflies change color throughout their lives, and the sexes often differ. With some species, color is variable. This can make it impossible to identify species by color alone.

Black Meadowhawk, male
Sympetrum danae
small or larger
2 views of female: dorsal & side

American Emerald
Cordulia shurtleffi
Side view & dorsal

American Emerald

Bluet Damselfly
Enallagma species
big or medium

What's the difference between dragonflies and damselflies?

Dragonflies and damselflies are very similar insects that belong to the same scientific Order-- Odonata. Dragonflies tend to be larger, with thicker bodies. They sit with their wings spread out to the side. The delicate little damselflies usually fold their wings behind their backs when they rest. Spreadwings are the exception. They are damselflies that usually hold their wings out, like dragonflies.

Both dragonflies and damselflies start out life as aquatic insects, emerging from the water as winged adults. Both spend most of their adult life flying, preying on small insects. They are beneficial at every stage of life, never harmful to humans. They are all fascinating and beautiful critters.

Extra photo link: Click here for a large photo of damselflies in a "mating wheel."

Northern (Common) Spreadwing
Lestes disjunctus
dorsal view or side view

bluet damselfly

[Please let me know if you believe there is an error in identification on this page.]


 Other Alaskan Invertebrates, with photos by Mary Hopson

Links to other dragonfly websites:

Butterflies of Alaska

 Moths of Alaska

Stonefly in Alaska

Spiders in Alaska

Dragonfly World
A moderated Yahoo! group, safe for everyone, all ages, open to anyone
who is interested in dragonflies.

Lots of interesting info on AK dragons
Checklist of Dragonflies (Odonata) of Alaska
Field Key to Adult Dragonflies
Glossary of dragonfly terms
Tree of Life Web Project: Odonata
The Dragonfly Website




Recommended reading: Dragonflies of Alaska by John Hudson & Robert H. Armstrong. The book is available through Todd Communications, 203 W. 15th Ave. Suite 102, Anchorage, AK 99510, for $12.95. Locally, you can also get it at Borders Books store. ISBN: 1-57833-302-4