Dragonfly watch: we have mating!

September 10, 2014 • 2:21 pm

[JAC] Since we had dragonflies this morning, I thought I’d put up this post by Matthew that he kindly wrote and saved as a draft. It was from about three days ago.

by Matthew Cobb

The other day I posted some photos of a male dragonfly, Sympetrum striatum, which I found in the quad of the Michael Smith building at the University of Manchester, where I work. Today I was in the quad, chatting in the sun with my ex-postdoc, Micheline, who has come back to the lab to finish an experiment in Maggot Mind Control™, when I spotted a dragonfly hovering over the pond. In fact, it was a mating pair. It was hard to get a good photo. This is the best I could do…



The male is the red insect, and this ‘mating wheel’ is classic for dragonflies. The female is collecting his sperm, while the male holds her head and she grips the end of her abdomen. After mating is complete, the male continues to guard the female, so that another male cannot mate with her until she has laid all her eggs. In this species, the female casts her eggs into the water. In other species she will delicately lay her eggs on plants.

The key thing is – this means we will have a load of vicious predators in the pond: dragonfly nymphs. And in a year or two there’ll be more dragonflies! Hooray!

12 thoughts on “Dragonfly watch: we have mating!

  1. I see a lot of this shameless public procreation in the Adirondacks. No boundaries! It always makes me happy when a dragonfly lands on me or my kayak.

  2. “The female is collecting his sperm, while the male holds her head and she grips the end of her abdomen.”

    I don’t understand how this works, she is gripping his abdomen, not her own and I can’t see how the sperm is being transferred either. Very confused.

    1. The end of the female abdomen is copulating with the base of the male abdomen. Meanwhile, the male is holding the female by gripping her neck with claspers at the end of his abdomen.

      1. Thank you for that verbal explanation. And thank you for not including any diagrams or photos. I shall now leave this web site. Until this post has bee forgotten.

  3. My wife’s,(actually the Nakusp Paddling Society’s 10 passenger Voyageur) canoe is called The Dragonfly. Dragonflies abound on the four long lakes,(average length 200 kms)in this area – South-Eastern British Columbia. The lakes, which are named for the valleys they occupy are from East to West, Kootenay,Slocan,Arrow and Okanagan – just sayin’.


  4. Dragonfly and damselfly mating is actually rather weird, since the male sort of has two sets of genitals. The whole process is explained here in this lovely video of damselfly mating.

    WARNING: Graphic animation of insect sex.

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