Guest post by Jim Lemon
What cool records will we find this year? One of the challenging things about dragonflies and damselflies is that some species are seasonal. We have some species that start showing up in April and fly all year long. Other species have only been documented in May, rarely found afterwards.
Thus, this blog is to help you target the April/May species and make sure you don’t miss out on the ones with short flight dates. We do have a list of complete flight dates along with a separate page for 2018 Ohio species maps. It also wouldn’t hurt to review the locations you can access and try to document dragonflies. Although not complete, I have a short page on the types of habitats that you could check out for new species.
Now, onto our early season dragons.
Almost every year, our earliest recorded adult is the Common Green Darner, Anax junius. It is a known migratory species, so we are likely enjoying the wave of adults as the move northward from their winter home. This Blue/Green dragon is known to taunt photographers and collectors alike. Aside from really cool days, it rarely lands and instead flies at impressive speeds, able to dodge most net and camera wielding naturalists. In 2018, our earliest records were on April 5th, followed by many people documenting them mid and lat April.
The Blue Corporal (Ladona deplanata), was also documented on April 5th by Sheree Cyra-Moorman, but it wasn’t reported again until May 1st. I have a separate blog just for this species, but if you are in central or southern Ohio, this is a species to watch.
Our next species to be reported in Ohio was the Eastern Forktail (Ischnura verticalis), by Sarah White on April 21st in Montgomery County. Our dates this year will depend on the weather, but start looking once we have had a few days of 60s in a row.
In 2018, it was not until the end of April that a Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita) was first reported. Similar in size to the Eastern Forktail, the Fragile Forktail does not have the blue at the end of the abdomen and has a broken thoracic stripe.
In 2018, we also had Uhler’s Sunddragon (Helocordulia uhleri) reported at the end of April in Adams County. This southern stream species is listed as State Endangered, so it is a rare find. It looks very similar to a Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura), but has more black at the base of the wings and a slight widening of the abdomen near the middle.
Then, at the beginning of May, we start getting a lot more species emerging.
Our first Southern Spreadwing (Lestes australis) was observed by Jim Lemon on May 2nd.
The first Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) was documented by Sarah White on May 4th.
The first Painted Skimmer (Libellula semifasciata), was also documented by Sarah White on May 4th. Kim Smith spotted another Painted Skimmer the next day in Lucas County, ~170 miles north of the first observation. So as soon as the first southern person reports one, I would not be surprised to also see them being reported in northern Ohio.
By May 5th, we had reports of Swamp Darners (Epiaeschna heros) in Ottawa County (northern Ohio).
By May 6th, we had our first reported Citrine Forktail (Ischnura hastata) at Cox Arboretum in Montgomery County, again by Sarah White.
By May 9th, we have lots of observations of the above species and our first observation of the Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata) in Summit County.
Then finally on May 10th, Jim Lemon spots a teneral Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia) emerging in Champaign County.
By May 10th, Sarah White recorded the first of the year records for Wandering Gliders (Pantala flavescens), Blue Dashers (Pachydiplax longipennis), Orange Bluets (Enallagma signatum), and Skimming Bluets (Enallagma geminatum).
Also on May 10th, Jon Cefus and Kent Miller documented the first Stream Cruiser (Didymops transversa) of the year!
Finally, on May 11th, MaLisa Spring documents the first Ohio records of Aurora Damsel (Chromagrion conditum) and Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura) in Vinton County.
By May 12th, we have our first Ohio reports of Twelve-spotted skimmers (Libellula pulchella) and Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata) in Warren County.
May 12th also brings our first report of Double Striped Bluets (Enallagma basidens) in Montgomery County, Ohio by Sheree Cyra-Moorman (who also spotted Black Saddlebags that day).
In 2018, May 13th was our first day we had reports of Azure Bluets (Enallagma aspersum) in Franklin County by Alisa DeMatteo.
Jim Lemon also spotted the first Eastern Red Damsel (Amphiagrion saucium) in Champaign County on May 13th.
By May 15th, we have our first report of a Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile) along with a Pronghorn Clubtail (Phanogomphus grasilenellus) in Greene County by Sarah White. Jim Lemon also spots a Familiar Bluet in Shelby County that day.
Jim Lemon spots the first Violet Dancer (Argia fumipennis) in Miami County and the first Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) in Shelby County on May 15th.
In Lorain County on May 15th, we have our first of the year Ohio record for the Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta).
In Champaign County on May 15th, Alisa DeMatteo is on a different adventure. She found both the First Of the Year and first record since 1934 in Champaign County for the Band-winged Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax umbrata). After 84 years, when the species was first reported in Ohio, Alisa was able to document this rare species once again for Champaign County. A different population was known from Northeastern Ohio in 2006 and 2007, with only two other reports in the state, once in 2014 in Lorain County and again in 2018 on the 4th of July in Ottawa County by Ryan Jacob. Regardless, this is a great find that only shows up rarely in Ohio.
That is enough records for now. The above species should give you an idea of what you might expect in the next month or so. Look out for part 2, which will list the First Of the Year 2018 records for the latter half of May. The key takeaway from the above is that once the species is mentioned, we then begin to see lots of people reporting them. So if they are spotted once somewhere in the state, expect them to be out and flying in other parts of the state in short order.
For the data nerds, Jim Lemon has compiled the below information.
Ohio Dragonfly Survey 2018
Thanks again to all of the many volunteers who have contributed data via iNaturalist. We would not be able to do so much if it was not for you. 2018 was a record year in a lot of ways, with a record number of observations, species expansions, and new county records.
To put this in comparison, above is a bar chart showing all observations ever recorded in the Ohio Odonata Society database. The red line is just data from 2018! (Note the dip in observation numbers in mid-june, coincidentally the date MaLisa Spring, Jim Lemon, and Dave McShaffrey were in Minnesota for the Dragonfly Society of the Americas conference).
In two years, we have doubled our known observations. It took the Ohio Odonata Society a DECADE to compile both specimens and old records from publications and museums to reach around 30,000 records. In two years, we have gotten 35,000 observations on iNaturalist! So thank you very much to everyone who has helped us reach these numbers! We cannot say that enough.
Now onto the fun data.
Top Counties – The Counties with the highest number of Observations in 2018
Champaign 1042 <- Jim Lemon frequents here
Franklin 918 <- Columbus
Summit 733 <- Akron
Lucas 562 <- Toledo
Hancock 505 <– Location of the 2018 Conference
Top Counties – Counties with the highest number of Species Reported in 2018
|County||# of Species Reported|
Top Counties – Counties with the highest number of Observers in 2018
|County||# of People Reporting|
Combined Top Scores
|County||# of Observations||Species Reported||# of People Reporting|
These numbers reinforce the thread – more people lead to more observations, which lead to more species being seen.
Most Observed Species Data – 2018 – top 7
|Species||# of Users observing||# of counties reported||Total # of observations|
*Note that there are only 88 counties in Ohio
Most Observed Species Data prior to 2018 – top 7
|Species||# of Users observing||# of counties reported||Total # of observations|
It’s interesting to see the slight changes in order in the most observed. No surprises, any of these species could be expected through most of the season, especially Jun-Jul, anywhere there’s water.
The flip-side are species where numbers are low, and or in the past. If you wanna be a rock star at the conference, find one of these…
Species not seen since before 1990:
|Species||Year last seen||County last observed|
|Georgia River Cruiser||1956||Paulding|
|Little Blue Dragonlet||1933||Vinton|
Additional Species with very limited range:
# counties last seen – county
|Species||Year last seen||County last observed|
Written by Jim Lemon and MaLisa Spring
The Ohio Odonata Society maintains a database for our Dragon/Damsel records. Key data are species, date, and location (including county). The earliest record date for a species in a county is known as the “County Record”. This can be a bit of a moving target as observations/specimens come to our knowledge. But it’s interesting to note county records at discrete moments, and update appropriately. New county records can mean different things – 1) part of it is simply having someone making observations, 2) part of it is species expanding their range, 3) part is irruption (sudden change due to various factors).
2018 was a banner year for new County Records. We had 286 County Records, far above any other year in our data!
Our Top Counties (#New County Records 2018) are most likely simply having people out looking:
Wood (12 new records); Lawrence (11); Guernsey (10); Madison (10); Preble (9); Brown (7); Fulton (7); Hocking (7); Sandusky (7); Seneca (7)
Looking at the map, most of these are towards the edge of the state, if not a border county. More observers leads to more observations and subsequently new county records.
If we look at the species having the most recent County Records, we see a different look.
Most New Species County Records – 2018 – 2017 – 2016
Carolina Saddlebags = 15 (3 in 2017)
Wandering Glider = 15 (5 in 2017)
Dusky Dancer = 12 (8 in 2017)
Westfall’s Slender Bluet = 11 (9 in 2017)
Slaty Skimmer = 10 (13 in 2017)
Flag-tailed Spinyleg = 8 (1 in 2017)
Unicorn Clubtail = 8 (4 in 2017)
Blue-faced Meadowhawk = 7 (4 in 2017)
Blue-ringed Dancer = 7 (5 in 2017)
Comet Darner = 7 (4 in 2017)
Vesper Bluet = 7 (4 in 2017)
One story here is the big numbers for Carolina Saddlebags in 2018 – 15 County Records and reported in 25 other counties. While the State Record was established in Fairfield Co in 1895, after that there are many multiple year gaps in the data. Not until 1995 were there reports in more than two counties. Saddlebags are migratory, and many of our 2018 observations (but not all!) were early in the season – so we might have been on the receiving end of a successful brood in the Gulf States.
Slaty Skimmer has more county records (26) in the last three years than any other species. This is another that was first observed in the 1800’s – Erie Co in 1896, but then recorded very infrequently until our first statewide survey in the 1990’s. Observations and county numbers have climbed every year for the last five. In addition to the new county records, Slaty’s were reported in 60 counties in 2018. This is a pretty classic range expansion – and 20 counties still needing Slaty observations.
Our next two – Westfall’s Slender Bluet (23) and Wandering Glider (22) – are most likely the result of having more people out looking. Wandering Glider is our global Odonate – and not uncommon, so just have people out looking is key. Westfall’s Slender Bluet is not a strong flier and is similar to several of our other Bluets – but just having people look around is likely a big factor.
Guest post by Jim Lemon
For all our Ohio Odonata species, we have made maps of where they have been reported, by county, and color coded to how recently a species has been reported. White means no observations (and a shot at a county record), and the darker the more recent. Wait – there’s more – new county records are indicated for the last three years – 2018 is the biggest dot, 2017 slightly smaller, then smallest for 2016. We also include the adult record count to provide an idea of how common things are, and flight period (but we also have separate charts on the frequency). Maps for all species can be found at: https://u.osu.edu/ohioodonatasurvey/species-distributions-across-ohio/
A couple examples –
Look at Blue Dasher – all dark blue – somebody submitted an observation from every Ohio county in 2018! Our only species for 2018 with this distinction. We also see that it’s been recorded from late Apr through late Oct – a long flight. With almost 2900 records, it is one of our most common dragons.
Now look at Comet Darner – see all three different dot sizes. Also note the wide distribution across the state – these things are terrific flyers. Note the color variation – older records are not as dark. These are probably in every county at some point – you just need to be in the right place at the right time. Comet flight is shorter (Jun-Jul) than the Blue Dasher, and has considerably fewer observations – so, more of a challenge!
Finally, look at Swift Setwing, one of our newest Odonates. First observed in Champaign Co in 2014, then Greene Co in 2016 (small dot), Muskingum and Montgomery in 2017 (medium dot), then five new counties in 2018 (big dots). This is an example of range expansion. There are no “old” records – so the location counties are all the darkest color. Then look at the spread – Swift Setwing wouldn’t be a surprise anywhere in the state. If we continue the trend, we should find 5 or more new county records in 2019.
Next look at Unicorn Clubtail. While its’ numbers are lower than Blue Dasher, we still see a reasonable curve with a tighter peak – pretty much in June. While we see a data point in September, specifically finding a Unicorn after mid-July would be pretty uncommon. Given the widespread range for Unicorn Clubtails, search for them in June in any of the 22 counties where they have not yet been reported.
Last example – Blue Corporal. After the first survey, Blue Corporal was listed as endangered. This may still be true, but we have been seeing more of them recently. But you have to look early – and in our southern counties. The chart shows them appearing in April, with a quick rise to mid-May and then a steep drop-off. So, short early flight and apparently limited range – can we find them expanding? See also our separate blog post on the Blue Corporal here: https://u.osu.edu/ohioodonatasurvey/2019/03/01/rare-dragons-the-blue-corporal-ladona-deplanata/
Let’s talk about a weird dragonfly in Ohio. First officially documented in 1992, we have no earlier records of the Blue Corporal (Ladona deplanata).
Due to its limited range and poor documentation, the Blue Corporal was considered worthy of listing as a species in trouble. Thus, it gained status as State Endangered in Ohio.
And it is not like people weren’t looking for dragonflies in Ohio. In the 1990’s, there was a dedicated attempt to survey the state, which is part of why we know it is here now. They also looked through museum records and publications, but the earliest record was still 1992.
The 1990’s Ohio Odonata Survey ended in the 1990s (surprise) and then effort to look for dragonflies in Ohio waned. Then I got my job as the State Coordinator of the Ohio Dragonfly Survey in the spring of 2017. Now there are lots of amazing volunteers out photographing dragons!
And guess what? Those Blue Corporals? In the last few years, we have had many people documenting them! The numbers are still somewhat low, but last year we found 51 of them!!
What’s more, now that we have enough observations, we can start to understand the regionality of the species. Oddly enough, the Blue Corporal is mostly documented south of Interstate 70.
We also do not see many observations in the eastern most portion of southern Ohio. Perhaps in part because we have very few people surveying there. Tie in the fact that this species flies mainly in April and May, means a very limited window to document.
Should this species still be listed as State Endangered? I’m not sure and that isn’t my call to make at this time. I am happy to see it showing up in many more spots. Hopefully, we will get more people out this year to document them even better!
Do you think you have seen one? Submit it to iNaturalist so we can confirm the record and add it to our database!
The Blue Corporal males have a wide thorax and abdomen that is a light or slate blue. The base of the hindwings is diagnostic, with a splash of black. You might mistake a male Blue Corporal for an Eastern Pondhawk (has a green face and white cerci), Blue Dasher (black tip of the abdomen, generally skinnier), or Slaty Skimmer (darker blue body, generally skinnier, perches off the ground). All of the similar species fly later in the season and are less likely to be found in April/May in Ohio. Females look similar to baskettails with a mostly brown body, but also are generally wider.
The 2019 Ohio Dragonfly Conference registration is now live! Both the registration form and all of the conference information can be found on the following webpage: https://u.osu.edu/ohioodonatasurvey/2019-ohio-dragonfly-conference/
It is set to be a great conference this year in Rio Grande, Ohio (southern Ohio) on May 31st – June 2nd. We hope to see the state Endangered species of Blue Corporals and Uhler’s Sundragons among many other cool species.
This is a conference for beginners and advanced alike. We will have introductory identification presentation for those new to the world of dragonflies, followed by several more in depth presentations on identification and ecology.
There will be plenty of other fun presentations including some on photography, gardening for dragonflies, and local natural history.
Our keynote speaker is Michael Moore!
Michael Moore is a research biologist who investigates how animal life cycles and mating interactions adapt to different environments. Michael has studied a diverse suite of animals in regions all across the United States—including dragonflies, amphibians, fish, and ladybugs. Michael received a B.S. from Gonzaga University, a M.S. from Murray State University, and a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University. Beginning later this summer, he will be starting as a post-doctoral research fellow at the Living Earth Collaborative—a new center for biodiversity research at Washington University, the St. Louis Zoo, and the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
He will talk about his recent research on Blue Dashers and using iNaturalist to unravel national differences in the population.
We will have guided field trips on Saturday where we get out to find potentially cool dragons and apply our new skills. Field trips will be to local habitats including wildlife areas and state parks.
Registration cost is $40 for regular attendees and $10 for students.
Don’t wait! Register now and save your spot today!
Oh, and did I mention we also plan to have moth sheets in the evening after the main conference? Join us to learn about dragons, but also maximize your cool insect time to see other cool insects at night!
2) you have permission to take physical material from your location,
3) you write down the collection information. Typical collection information includes date collected, location collected, your name, and other notes (such as eaten by x species). More information on collecting specimens can be found on our physical collections protocol page.
Thanks to our many volunteers, we have surpassed 32,000 photo observations on iNaturalist! We owe a lot to our many volunteer photographers and identifiers. Without you, we would only just be getting started surveying Ohio. In comparison, the survey in the 1990’s only had about 30,000 records, including numbers extracted from older publications. In two years, were were able to double a decades worth of work!
For those reading this blog, but not getting the emails, photo and specimen observations are due December 1st of this year. Anything submitted after that might not make it onto next years maps, but we still want your observations regardless of submission date.
Cool records for the year:
Jim Lemon and I published a short note in Argia 30:3 about some weird oddities. A population of Jade Clubtails and Paiute Dancers were found in Ohio. We also had weird errant records of one Scarlet Skimmer and Rambur’s Forktail found at aquatic plants distributors. Lots of other cool things were found this year, so I recommend reading the full article.
I have been trying to visit locations across the state, both to survey and spread the word so others know to submit observations. Thus, last year I made several outreach materials, which can be found on the resources page. These include things like wanted posters, silhouette ID guides for damselflies and dragonflies, and links to presentations from past years. Since the weather has cooled down, I have started on more outreach materials. The first of the series is below, but there will likely be more graphics changes to make them look more appealing, and hopefully get parks to post them up on boards.
Anyways, that is all for now. If you have any specific requests or questions, feel free to reach out to me at spring . 99 at osu.edu.
After feedback from attendees of various presentations, I have created a silhouette identification guide for damselflies in Ohio. A dragonfly guide is forthcoming, but I figured I would start with the easier group first. The guide is mainly to differentiate families and give you a starting place of where to look for species groups. This guide and many others are also available on the Resources page of this website.
Current Odes to watch:
Painted Skimmers; Blue Corporals; Baskettails; Swamp, Harlequin, and Springtime Darners; Carolina Saddlebags; Eastern Red Damsel; Aurora Damsel; Sedge and Sphagnum Sprite; and Rainbow Bluets