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Wandering Glider



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Pantala flavescens

Fabricius, 1798


Order Odonata
Suborder Anisoptera
Superfamily Libelluloidea
Family Libellulidae
Genus Pantala
Species flavescens (Fabricius, 1798) [Libellula]


Identification

This is the most widespread and cosmopolitan dragonfly in the region. It is distinctive with its predominantly yellow color. It has a pale yellow face that becomes reddish in older males. The thorax is olivaceous brown and largely unmarked. The wings clear with brown apices in the males. The legs are pale basally, becoming black for most of their length. The stout tapered abdomen is yellow with black stripes laterally on the swollen basal segments. There is a thin dark middorsal stripe that widens and becomes noticeably darker on segments 8-10. The pale caudal appendages are more or less bicolored in males, darkening in outer the half.

Size

Total length: 44-51 mm; abdomen: 25-34 mm; hindwing: 35-42 mm.

Similar Species

Spot-winged Glider (P. hymenaea ) has a distinct brown spot basally in the hindwing and is generally darker in color. Similar meadowhawks (Sympetrum ) have normal-shaped wings and parallel-sided abdomens. Saddlebag gliders (Tramea ) all have wide crossbands in the hindwings.

Habitat

Permanent and temporary ponds, pools and other water bodies, including brackish ones.

Discussion

The common name of this species may be the most appropriate of any of species. It is a strong flier, with a circumtropical distribution. It is found in nearly every contiguous state, extreme southern Canada, southward throughout Central and South America, the Bahamas, West Indies, Hawaii and throughout the Eastern Hemisphere, except for Europe. It is a strong flier that is regularly encountered by ocean freighters and a well-known migratory species. Because of its ability to drift with the wind, feeding on aerial plankton, until it finally encounters a rain pool in which it breeds, it has been called "...the world's most evolved dragonfly." It is generally more abundant in the fall when offspring from earlier in the spring migrate southward. They are often encountered in large mixed fe eding swarms, along with saddlebag gliders (Tramea), where they prey upon small flying insects. Males patrol territories of varying lengths 1-2 m above the water. Mating takes place in flight and lasts from 30 sec to an unusually long 5 min. Females lay eggs in temporary ponds or rainpools by tapping their abdomen to the water surface, alone or accompanied by the male. The larva can complete its cycle in as little as five weeks. It is not unusual, however to see females attempting to lay eggs on automobile roof tops, asphalt roads or other shiny structures that they mistake for water. They usually perch vertically on low stems and twigs, but sometimes they will perch horizontally with the abdomen depressed below the rest of the body. Eggs are deposited in ponds while flying in tandem straight over the water. Feeding swarms consist of both males and females in equal numbers over land and can occur at anytime from dawn to dusk. Early instars of the larvae are extremely tolerant to drough t, living several months in dry mud.

Distribution

Throughout U.S. and southern Canada; West Indies, Central America south to Chile and Argentina; found on all continents but Europe and Antarctica