Dragonfly migration is one of the most fascinating events in the insect world, but also one of the least-known. This is even more surprising when you consider that dragonfly migration occurs on every continent except Antarctica. The aptly-named wandering glider (Pantala flavescens), though less famed as a migrant than the monarch butterfly, makes annual flights across the Indian Ocean that are twice the distance of monarch migrations.
In North America, migrations are seen annually in late summer and early fall, when thousands to millions of insects stream southward along coasts, lake shores, and mountain ridges from Canada down to Mexico and the West Indies, passing along both coasts of the United States and through the Midwest. Movement back north is less obvious, but we know it occurs because mature adult dragonflies appear early in spring at places where overwintering resident immatures (nymphs) have not yet emerged.
Only about 16 of our 326 dragonfly species in North America are regular migrants, with some making annual seasonal flights while others are more sporadic. The major migratory species in North America are common green darner (Anax junius, wandering glider (Pantala flavescens), spot-winged glider (Pantala hymenaea), black saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), and variegated meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum).
Although it spans three countries and has been documented since the 1880s, North American dragonfly migration is still poorly understood, and much remains to be learned about migratory cues, flight pathways, and the southern limits of overwintering grounds. To better understand and conserve North America’s dragonfly migration, dragonfly experts, nongovernmental programs, academic institutions, and federal agencies from the United States, Mexico, and Canada have formed the collaborative, the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership (MDP). The MDP is combining research, citizen science, and education and outreach to better understand North America’s migrating dragonflies, and to promote conservation of the wetland habitat on which they rely. The partnership is chaired by Scott Black (Xerces Society) and vice-chaired by John Abbott (University of Texas-Austin).
The main projects of the MDP involve developing an international network of citizen scientists to monitor the spring and fall movements of the main migratory species in North America, and using stable isotopes to determine the distance traveled by a migrating dragonfly from the pond where it developed and emerged as an adult. For more information about the MDP, download this fact sheet, or find out more about dragonfly ecology and behavior by reading Four Wings, Will Travel. Please visit our initiatives page for more information about how you can participate in exciting MDP projects.
The Migratory Dragonfly Partnership is designed to gather and disseminate information about dragonfly and damselfly distribution and abundance North America.
Personal Information is voluntarily supplied by you when you register and submit data to the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership. By registering, you allow us to associate your observations with a unique identifier (login or email), so that you can track your personal records. If you submit an unusual record, we may e-mail you to request more details, but your email address and contact information will not be sold or distributed. Profile Information allows us to gain a better understanding of Migratory Dragonfly Partnership participants and to determine how best to improve the web site for users.
Dragonfly and damselfy observations are the most important pieces of information that we collect. All details of an observation and its associated location are available to all users registered with the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership. No personal contact information is ever made public unless you opt to make it available in your profile.
Because a primary goal of the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership is to maintain a universally accessible, centralized database of dragonfly and damselfly migratory observations, the records you submit are available to all Migratory Dragonfly Partnership and OdonataCentral users, scientists, and others who are interested in examining the distribution, abundance, and trends of New World species.
Registered users are able to view their personal observations and the observations of others, so please be aware that your observations of sensitive species and their locations will be available to others.
OdonataCentral, the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership and the Dragonfly Society of the Americas are conservation organizations and while we encourage the collection of specimens in many cases in order to voucher records, we ask that you do so responsibly. See the Dragonfly Soceity of the America's collecting policy.
Contributors own the copyright to and are solely responsible for contributed photos. No unauthorized use of photos is permitted. Everything else copyright © 2012-2013 Migratory Dragonfly Partnership, unless otherwise noted.