Aeshna cyanea

Common Name:
Southern Hawker, Blue Darner
A. cyanea
The Name
Aeshna cyanea, the Southern Hawker or Blue Darner, is a large, brightly coloured Dragonfly. It has green markings on the black bodies, and the male also has blue spots on the abdomen. Male southern hawkers have green markings with blue markings on the last three segments of the abdomen. The female has all green markings. 

The males are often seen patrolling by a ponds edge or river, where they fight away intruders, crashing into rival males and spiralling through the air. The females are quite inconspicuous when they lay their eggs, but they sometimes give away their spot by clattering up from the reeds. If you look carefully you can sometimes find them ovipositing (laying eggs) into some moss, reeds or rotten wood. The males are sometimes very curious and come flying up to you, allowing a close view.

Distinguished from other Hawkers by the two 'head-light' markings on the thorax and also by the paired spots on the last two abdominal segments merging.


The Characteristics
The Southern Hawker is a large hawker, with wingspan approximately 95mm, body length around 75mm. The species' most distinguishing features include the brown-and-green thorax and abdomen, the male's blue eye spots, and, especially, the uninterrupted coloured bands (blue in the male; green in the female) which cover S9 and S10. In all other European Aeshna species those bands are interrupted by the usual dark dorsal line. Usually males are black with large apple green spots on the abdomen and with blue markings on the last two segments and along the sides of the abdomen. Thorax sides are largely bright green, as is the face, with blue eyes. Females are duller, having pale green and blue markings.

The Southern Hawker breeds in still or slow-flowing water, but will wander widely, and is often seen in gardens and open woodland. This is an inquisitive species and will approach people. Aeshna cyanea is typically associated with small lakes and garden ponds. The males tend to be very inquisitive and will often fly up to an observer to check them out. 

The adult eats various insects, caught on the wing. The nymphs feed on aquatic insects, tadpoles and small fish ambushed in the pond they frequent until they emerge as adults in July and August after three years' development.


The Reproduction and Development
Southern Hawker is often recorded well away from water, though for breeding purposes it prefers smaller water bodies with wooded margins; garden pools are well used breeding sites.

The eggs are laid by jabbing the abdomen into rotting vegetation or wood. The eggs hatch in the spring, after being laid in the previous summer or autumn. The larvae live on small tadpoles and invertebrates. They emerge after 2-3 years.

Adults fly from July to start of October.


The Distribution
Aeshna cyanea is a one of the commonest species of the genus in central Europe. It occurs throughout Europe but tends to be rare in the South-East and South-West and in the North of Scandinavia. 

Northern African populations are genetically distinct from the European populations (based on ecology, but no genetic data to date; Samraoui, pers. comm.). It is highly localised in northern Africa, where it is only known from two localities in Algeria. The population is severely fragmented. The presence if the species in Morocco is uncertain and needs to be confirmed.


The Protection Status
IUCN Red List as Endangered B2ab(i, iii) 

The Species on Stamps
Great Britain



With courteous to Mr. Richard Lewington for the Dragonfly Illustration
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