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Dragonfly Migration

Scientists try to crack the mystery of dragonfly migrations.

a dragonfly in flight

Photo: Martin James

ike birds, the southbound dragonflies seem to use the tailwinds generated by northerly cold fronts to aid in their southbound flights.

Did you that some species of dragon flies migrate?

Of the 400 or so species in North America, scientists believe only about a dozen migrate from the northern United States and southern Canada to the southern United States and Mexico. In fact, even in species that have been shown to migrate, like the green darner, not all populations make the journey.

Dragonfly migration remains quite a mystery altogether. Scientists have wondered why they migrate, how they know where to go, and where precisely they go when they fly south. That could be changing though. In the last year and a half, scientists have begun fitting dragonflies with tiny radio transmitters in order to track their migration. They actually glue the transmitters, along with tiny batteries, onto the undersides of the dragonflies’ abdomens. Scientists can then track the insects by plane since it is almost impossible to follow them on the ground.

So far, their research has revealed that dragonfly migration seems to be remarkably similar to bird migration. Like birds, the southbound dragonflies seem to use the tailwinds generated by northerly cold fronts to aid in their southbound flights. Other similarities to birds were that they refrained from migrating on windy days, and they followed visual landmarks such as coastlines and lake shores. Still, there are plenty of unanswered questions, like why some species are on the move, while others stay put.

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