A relatively weak flier, the dwarf darter has a small home range and rarely ventures far from its breeding habitat (8).
Reproduction in dragonflies generally involves very little courtship behaviour, and begins with the male grasping the female by the neck with claspers at the tip of the abdomen. Mating then takes place in the air, on the ground or among vegetation, with the length of the process varying greatly between species (5).
Species within the genus Sympetrum tend to lay eggs towards the end of the summer and beginning of autumn. The female lays the eggs while flying over water, or over dried out water beds which will become submerged during the winter. The larvae hatch the following spring and complete their development by June, when large numbers of adults can be seen flying around water bodies (9).
Like other dragonfly species, the dwarf darter has a complex life cycle which includes a fully aquatic larval stage (5). As larvae or ‘nymphs’, dragonflies are effective sit-and-wait predators, with the fascinating feature of being able to fire out the lower portion of the mouth, known as the ‘mask’, in order to grasp passing prey (5) (10).
As well as being able to walk, dragonfly larvae are able to move through the water by jet propulsion, expelling water from a specialised rectal chamber in order to propel themselves along (10).
Dragonflies are skilled aerial predators, usually catching various small insects on the wing. However, members of the Libellulidae family tend to hunt from perches, pursuing prey once sighted before returning to the perch to consume it (5). Dragonflies within the Sympetrum genus, such as the dwarf darter, tend to spend a lot of time on the ground, and have been found to have three parts to the eye, one of which is specialised to detect small objects against the blue sky overhead (11).