Roadside ditches, marshes, wetlands and prairies are alive with many beautiful species of dragonflies. From the dainty Eastern amberwings that are warmly illuminated by sun and perched on the lovely petals in the low growing carpet of color, to the large green darners flying in tandem across a shallow wetland, one can hardly find a view that is lacking of these winged jewels.

The sight of those zigzagging, quick-flying marvels is almost more than the human eye can follow, registering only a blur.

The black and white spots on the 12-spotted skimmer are bright and beautiful, making this dragonfly stand out, as it flies in the sunlight or perches in the broken light of a shadowy wet ditch.

Blue dashers are visible as far as the eye can see, perched in the open areas on the tips of the many available stems, branches and tall flowers along roads surrounding the wet prairies.

Sitting in the bright sun, the dashers rotate regularly to regulate their body temperature, at times, taking what is known as the “obelisk” position, where they stick their abdomen in a straight up posture to help cool their bodies.

The common green darner is a large beautiful dragonfly that migrates over long distances from the South and breeds here in Northern Illinois during the summer.

In July and August, the larvae develop and the young dragonflies emerge and work their way south to a warm climate for the winter, where they will breed and lay eggs. Their young will develop from larvae to dragonfly and fly north in the spring, repeating the process.

There are 98 species of dragonflies in Illinois, and all offer something unique that makes them easy to identify. Male and female of the same species can look similar with only subtle differences or they can look very different with confusing markings and colors.

The common whitetail dragonfly is a good example of males and females having very different markings. Both their wings and bodies differ in pattern and color. The male has a white body, and the female has a mostly brown body. They both share a very similar stocky shape. These hot, humid, summer days demand a certain amount of attention devoted to observation of the dragonflies of Illinois.

Bring binoculars.

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