The eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) is a stunning dragonfly that displays extreme sexual dimorphism. The vividly coloured female has a metallic green head and thorax, a white or green, black-banded abdomen and olive-brown to yellowish-green eyes, while the somewhat duller male is power blue with a green head and blue-green eyes. Immature eastern pondhawks resemble the female, but immature males slowly change to blue within the first month of emerging from the water (3).
Like other dragonflies, the eastern pondhawk has two pairs of heavily-veined wings, with the front pair shorter and narrower than the rear pair. The abdomen is long and slender and divided into several segments. The adult eastern pondhawk has powerful biting mouthparts and large compound eyes that can detect the fast movements of its insect prey (4).
A voracious predator and expert hunter, the eastern pondhawk eats insects such as dragonflies, damselflies, grasshoppers and butterflies, often taking prey as large as, or even larger than, itself. It catches its prey in the air and often follows large mammals walking in long grass so that it can capture insects disturbed by them. While resting, the eastern pondhawk perches on low vegetation, on the ground or on floating debris (4)(5)(6).
At the start of the breeding season, male eastern pondhawks compete to establish territories, which females visit to mate and lay eggs. After being grasped by the male on the back of the head, the female initiates mating by raising the abdomen, forming a mating ‘wheel’. The female lays up to 900 eggs under the water, all the time guarded by the male. The eggs are usually laid amongst vegetation, which protects them against predation from water bugs, water beetles, dragonfly larvae and fish (3)(7). The resulting larvae remain under water until ready to emerge and transform into adults (4).
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