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Fragile Forktail (What Time is it in Nature)

May 9, 2015

Summer is almost here and the dragonflies have been very active at the Prairie Ridge pond recently! One species of damselfly has been active for a few weeks already, the Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita).

Fragile forktail damseflies, male and female

Fragile Forktails are easy to tell apart from other damselflies at the pond. They are tiny dragonflies, less than an inch long, with long and slender bodies and clear wings. Males, pictured at the above left, are mostly dark iridescent black on top with bright yellow-green markings, including exclamation marks at the shoulders.  Females are bright blue with black markings when they are young and become a deeper blue as they age, but they have blue exclamation marks at the shoulders.  Both sexes usually have black markings at the tip of the abdomen.

These small damselflies prefer ponds or marshes with a lot of vegetation around them and you will often fund both sexes flying over or among grassy areas alongside bodies of water.  Due to their small size, they are readily hunted by other dragonflies, so they generally stay hidden among vegetation, remaining still and blending well with their environment.  Like other dragonflies and damselflies, the Fragile Forktail is predatory and hunts small insects near or over ponds and in their grassy habitats.

Fragile Forktails are very common dragonflies throughout most of their range in the eastern US, southeastern Canada, and eastern Mexico through Guatemala.  They can also be found throughout most of the flight season for dragonflies and damselflies.  At Prairie Ridge, they are often one of the earliest damselflies to appear in the spring and the last to disappear in the fall.  They are also one of the most commonly spotted damselflies in cloudy, cooler weather, which may be a predator avoidance behavior as other dragonflies and damselflies are less likely to be active in such weather.

Fragile Forktails abound near the Prairie Ridge pond and have been very active there over the last month.  On your next visit, take a close look in the vegetation near the pond.  You are likely to see many of the gorgeous little Fragile Forktails hunting and hiding in the grass!

What Time is it in Nature is a weekly feature highlighting the current plants, animals, and other wildlife at the Museum’s public outdoor facility, Prairie Ridge Ecostation.Find out more about the natural happenings at Prairie Ridge at our What Time is it in Nature Archive!

(Photos by Chris Goforth)

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