Our most colourful hawker, the male being a lovely combination of blues, yellows and greens. Usually emerges early July though I have seen one fully mature in June before.
Through August, September and early October they seem to be the most common hawker locally, appearing literally anywhere (I always have a few flying through the garden).
They hawk along the river Derwent and are seen at just about every known pond in the borough, regularly at Far Pasture and Gibside, but the best site for them by far is Thornley Woods Pond, an intimate little site where all aspects of their life history can be observed, including from early July the fascinating sight of the emergence.
|Southern Hawker (mature male)|
A striking insect, larger spots than the other hawkers in a line
of green turning to blue along the back of the abdomen.
|From above note the thick antehumeral stripes, much thicker than those|
of the common hawker, and the blue bands at the tip of the abdomen
are also unique to the southern hawker.
|Note the female has the same thick antehumeral stripes|
Abdominal colouring is a duller green on brown, and has tail bars
like the male.
|From the side note how the thorax is made up of green|
panels, rather than the stripes of the other hawkers,
but not as complete as the Emperor.
|A close-up of the intricate markings of the male shows the |
|Compare the profile of the female (above) with that of the male (top)|
Thorax is pretty much the same but the abdomen is thicker and has
green on brown markings.
|Southern Hawker (mature female)|
The female is not so colourful as the male but distinctive from other hawker
females with greenish spotting and panelled thorax. Unlike other hawker
females she also has thick antehumeral stripes.
|It is often possible to get really close to a female as she oviposits.|
Younger females will arrive at the pond in the mornings to have a better chance of mating, older individuals tend to arrive in the afternoon, and they visit only once or twice every three days. Non-receptive females (those who arrive only to oviposit) will still attract attention, but will flee and hide or attempt to struggle free if caught.
|The female oviposits alone, and will usually come to the pond early|
morning or late afternoon, or midday on cooler days when there is
likely to be less male activity.
Eggs will be laid on submerged plants, logs or tree roots, muddy banks, moss, wooden bridges and boardwalks, indeed almost anywhere.
Eggs remain dormant through winter and hatch early next spring, the larvae emerging the following year from mid-late June, peaking in July.
|The soft-bodied larva climbs up a plant stem then waits|
to dry out.
|The dry casing splits at the 'shoulders' and emergence begins|
|Head and thorax forced out first|
|Then the abdomen is inched out|
|The legs harden ready for use in the next stage|
|The dragonfly reaches up and pulls out the |
remainder of the abdomen
|Now completely free of the larval casing|
which it hangs from to dry out.
|The abdomen begins to stretch out and|
the wings begin to unfurl.
|The wings slowly pump up and the first sign of|
colour can be seen in the abdomen
|Slowly the dragonfly is taking shape|
|Still a way to go but the wing-veins,|
nodes and pterostigma are all there
to be seen.
|The freshly emerged dragonfly of both sexes is a pale cream colour,|
this one is a male told by the waisted abdomen
|This emerging hawker will be a female, the much thicker base to|
the abdomen the tell-tell sign.
|Back at the pond, this dried out husk (exuvia)|
is all that remains to tell the tale.
In females there is an occasional yellow form which again might lead to confusion with other hawkers, but as in the male, the antehumeral stripes, thorax panels and tail bars all remain consistent.