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Southern hawker - Aeshna cyanea
Southern hawker - Aeshna cyanea

Southern hawker
The southern hawker (Aeshna cyanea), also known as the blue darner belongs to the genus hawker dragonflies (Aeshna), in the order Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), the suborder dragonflies (Epiprocta), the infraorder Anisoptera, and the family hawkers (Aeshnidae). The species is widespread and common in the western Palearctic from Scandinavia to North Africa. In Central Europe, the southern hawker is very common, and their survival is not threatened.
Dragonfly - Aeshna cyanea
Dragonfly - Aeshna cyanea
Aeshna cyanea reach body lengths of 70-80 mm and wingspans of 90-110 mm. Their bodies are long and black and the females have bright green spots. The head is large and clearly separated from the thorax. The compound eyes are blue-green in the males and olive-green in the females. The chest section is mottled yellow to green and has black markings (base colour). Two yellow stripes are visible on the upper surface and sides of the chest.
Head of the Southern hawker
Head of the Southern hawker
The abdomen is black, comprises 10 segments, 8 of which move, and bears pairs of blue and green stripes, the last of which are blended together forming a patch. These stripes differentiate Aeshna cyanea from other Aeshna species. The colour of the abdominal markings differ according to age and gender.). On the upper surface of the abdomen of the males are blue to blue-green or sometimes yellow pairs of spots; in the females greenish hues predominate. The females have an ovipositor at the end of their abdomens, whereas the males have claspers with which they hold the female during mating. The females have a cylindrical abdomen.
Side view of the Head - Southern hawker
Side view of the Head - Southern hawker
The legs of the southern hawker are strongly built and are used for capturing prey. The wings can move independently of each other which makes rapid changes of direction in flight possible. The wings haveweak blue pterostigma.
Details - Wing approaches - Southern hawker
Details - Wing approaches - Southern hawker
The southern hawker is active from mid June to October and prefers to live near standing water like ponds, pools or small lakes. They move away in search of food, on regular flight paths and are often found long distances from home in forests or forest edges. They prey on flying insects, capturing them while flying at low levels and the males may show considerable perseverance. Southern hawkers defend their territory at the water against conspecifics as well as other species of dragonflies.
Detail Abdomen - Aeshna cyanea
Detail Abdomen - Aeshna cyanea
During the mating season, (which is from mid July toAugust), the males can be observed on "patrol" flights, looking for females. During these, they often stay in the air. They fight with rival conspecifics when entering their territory. Mating almost always begins near the ground and often ends at the top of trees or bushes near water.
Body of the Aeshna cyanea - Southern hawker
Body of the Aeshna cyanea - Southern hawker
Fertilized females bore holes into plants located on or just above the water surface and lay 20-30 eggs in total in these holes. The eggs overwinter. In the spring of the following year, the hatched larvae sink to the bottom of the water, where they stay for 2-3 years, until the end of their development. The larvae feed on micro-organisms. They reach body lengths exceeding 50 mm and are equipped with powerful mandibles. In the late stages of development, the larvae also catch tadpoles and small fish.
They breathe in the water using a special tissue in their rectum. When the larvae are fully developed some time in June, they creep out of the water along a plant stem and shed their outer skin (excuvia). When their wings have dried, they fly off as adult dragonflies. The southern hawker seems to have no fear of humans. Birds pose the biggest threat as they prey on the larvae when they are on their way into the water and especially like to attack the juvenile dragonflies when they have just hatched from the excuvia.

Description of images / photos
Photography with Cameras
Nikon D3x, Nikon D300, Canon 50D
Image editing with Photoshop
1. Southern hawker - Aeshna cyanea
2. Dragonfly - Aeshna cyanea
3. Head of the Southern hawker
4. Side view of the Head - Southern hawker
5. Details - Wing approaches - Southern hawker
6. Detail Abdomen - Aeshna cyanea
7. Body of the Aeshna cyanea - Southern hawker
Sources, links and more informations
Southern hawker in Wikipedia
Aeshnidae in Wikipedia
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