Landbridge's picture

Emperor (SPECIES?) type Dragonfly

Observed: 9th August 2011 By: Landbridge
Emperor type D'fly

This insect was found floating in a pond and is clearly an “emperor” type of dragonfly. The abdomen was brown/olive, becoming a brighter greenish where it joined the thorax. I wouldn't have given it a second thought except for the yellow ochre shading in the wings. My recollection of seeing emperors in the past was that they had clear wings. The length of the whole insect was about 7.7 cm. I understand that some Vagrant Emperor dragonflies have appeared this summer in Britain. A diagnostic feature of those is stated to be a yellowish colouring or of the wings where they join the thorax. This insect had clear wings where they join the thorax. Another but even rarer insect is stated to be the "Lesser Emperor" dragonfly and that does seem to have this yellow colouring of the wings (source: Brooks 1997). As this is an extremely rare insect in this country (first sighting in Britain in 1996) I would be glad of opinions!

Species interactions

No interactions present.


RoyW's picture


This is a female Emperor Dragonfly. Although there is relatively little colour or pattern visible, the typical pattern and green colour can be seen on the first abdomenal segments (just behind the thorax), and the black pentagonal shape on the frons (just in front of the eyes can also just about be made out).
Even without these details Landbridges original ID (an Anax species) can be confirmed because the radial supplementary vein(rspl) in the wings curves strongly forwards and points towards the wing tip - a feature typical of the genus, but not seen in Aeshna species.

The generally dark body colour is probably a result of age and/or death - old individuals of many species sometimes become very dark, and colours tend to fade rapidly after death.
The wing colour is also something that is regularly seen in older individuals (not just Emperors, it is also fairly common in Common Darters to give just one example).
An Emperor showing extensive brown tinting in the wings can be seen in this example photo:

As far as the rarer Anax species go, Lesser Emperor is now a scarce annual visitor which regularly attempts to breed. Vagrant Emperor is much rarer in the UK, but there was a good influx this year - and if suggestions that the species periodically becomes more abundant in Africa are correct, there may be further influxes in the next few years.

Landbridge's picture

Thanks very much for the ID

Thanks very much for the ID Roy W!

RoyW's picture

No problem!

You already had a good idea about what it was, and as the appearance clearly doesn't fit the description of 'pristine' individuals usually given in field guides it is understandable to consider the posibility of related rarer species (and I'm sure that scarcer species are sometimes overlooked because they are 'assumed' to just be odd individuals of common species).