Sunday, July 19, 2015

Federally endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly found on new site

The federally endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly was recently found in a new area in Missouri. This marks the 20th site in the state known to be habitat for the imperiled bug. (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)
This makes the 20th site in Missouri known to host the imperiled bug.
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) announces a new site where the federally endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly is found. This marks the 20th site in Missouri known to be habitat for the imperiled bug. Landowner Gregg Hohl said finding the Hine’s emerald dragonfly on his land verifies that he did the right thing when he bought it in 2013.
“I bought this property with the intention of preserving wildlife and to have a place where we could take our kids and enjoy nature,” Hohl said.
He and his wife, Lauron, have two children, Madison, age 16, and Gavin, age 12.. He said the 228-acre property is dedicated to wildlife habitat development, but it’s also a place for the family to “play, roam and explore together.”
So far, they’ve seen a wide range of wildlife on the property, including bobcats, deer, predatory and migratory birds, turtles, fish and snakes. Finding the Hine’s emerald dragonfly has taken their explorations of nature to a deeper level, he said.
“Now I’m sending the kids out with a bowl and telling them to bring back bugs and leaves and then identify what they found.”
The family is now learning more about the dragonfly species and about its habitat type, the fen.
“I’m digging deeper to find out what this is, how can I encourage this and help wildlife even more,” Hohl said.
The Hine's emerald dragonfly is an extremely rare insect and the only dragonfly on the federal list of endangered species. The largest known breeding population occurs in Door County, Wisconsin. The only other known populations occur at small wetlands in northern Michigan, northeastern Illinois and in the Missouri Ozarks. It has bright emerald-green eyes and a metallic green body, with yellow stripes on its sides. Its body is about 2.5 inches long and its wingspan reaches just more than 3 inches.
Bruce Henry is a natural history biologist with the MDC. Henry verified the presence of the dragonfly on Hohl’s property after the landowner worked with a private lands conservationist to improve the habitat on his land.
“It’s exciting to report a new site for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, because that means we’re closer to keeping them around in Missouri,” Henry said.
“One of the first things I did when I bought the property was contact the Conservation Department to find out what I could do to improve habitat,” Hohl said. “I just couldn’t be happier about partnering with them.”
When Hohl and the private lands conservationist, Jeremy Pully, thought they may have identified potential Hine’s emerald dragonfly habitat, they notified Henry, who evaluated the property and verified the presence of the species.
“We spotted two males flying their typical territorial patrol,” Henry said. “It’s exciting to see them utilizing a previously unknown area. If it wasn’t for our private lands program, we wouldn’t be as successful in conserving the species.”
Adult males defend small breeding territories, pursuing and mating with females who enter. The female lays eggs by repeatedly plunging the tip of her body into shallow water. Later in the season or the following spring, immature dragonflies, called nymphs, hatch from the eggs. The nymph lives in the water for two to four years, eating smaller aquatic insects and shedding its skin many times. The nymph then crawls out of the water and sheds its skin a final time, emerging as a flying adult. The adults may live only 4 to 5 weeks.
To complete its life history and reproduce, this species requires a specific type and level of surface water. This is the reason they live in fens. A fen is a shallow wetland continuously fed by spring water. In the Missouri Ozarks, fens are found in the valleys, primarily in privately-owned hay fields and pastureland. Along with rare insects, fens also host a certain group of unique plants such as marsh fern, wild sweet William, fox sedge, bristly stalked sedge and orange coneflower.
Dragonflies play an important role in nature. They catch and eat smaller flying insects, including mosquitoes, biting flies and gnats. In its immature stage, called a nymph, a dragonfly is an important food source for larger aquatic animals such as fish.
“Every species of wildlife plays an important role in our ecosystem,” Henry said. “From large species like bears, to the smaller insects, they all contribute an important piece of the puzzle.”
For the landowner, finding this piece of the puzzle encourages him to keep looking for more. Henry and other conservation employees are working with Hohl to improve the fens on his property to benefit the dragonfly and other wildlife.
“I’m so pleased to have this partnership with MDC so they can help bring the reason I bought this property, to promote wildlife habitat, to fruition,” he said. “It’s already happening with finding this dragonfly and this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
More information on Hine’s emerald dragonflies and how to improve wildlife habitat can be found at mdc.mo.gov.