Questions from our Readers

So if dragonflies are not likely to be the answer to my problems, what would be? Bryan – Yorktown, VA
Answer: Mosquito control is a complicated subject and can change from region to region depending on which mosquitoes you have present, what your local environment is like and how tolerant you are of the various management techniques such as fogging with insecticides. There are some effective general tactics – draining pots and tubs of standing water, use of Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) in water where larvae are present and the water cannot be drained and use of repellents against adults. Your best bet, however, is to contact your local cooperative extension agent to see what the regional recommendations are. There may also be some organic gardeners in your area that have some effective techniques more to your liking. Lastly, there is a department of entomology at VPI&SU that is certain to have a faculty member or two that can give you detailed advice. Their homepage is at:
I’ve seen what looks like a dragonfly, but it appears to be black with white mixed in it’s wings. Is this a dragonfly? and if so is it harmful? Carolyn
Answer: There are several dragonflies with black and white in their wings. The most common one is the Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa). Dragonflies are definitely not harmful to humans. They do not bite or sting. They are very beneficial for they eat all sorts of insects including mosquitoes, flying ants, swarming termites, flies, gnats, and just about anything small enough for them to catch.
How do I obtain live dragonflies to help control mosquitoes in my area? I have not seen any around in my yard. Thank you. Bryan – Yorktown, VA
Answer: Dragonflies, while they do eat mosquitoes, are not likely to be the answer to your mosquito problems. Many of them fly during the day, a time when mosquitoes are not as active as they are late in the evening and at night. There are, however, some species of dragonflies that do fly very late in the day and these surely eat mosquitoes if they have the chance to do so.I do not know of any place that sells dragonflies and it is very doubtful that they would do any good if you could buy them. The minute you release a dragonfly it is going to go wherever it wants to go. If you do not have water nearby, it is unlikely the dragonfly will stay around your home for very long. The best thing to do, if you want dragonflies in your yard (and there is no water nearby), is to construct a water garden. They can be fairly inexpensive to build and will, within a short period of time, attract all sorts of aquatic insects; including dragonflies and damselflies. I have seen dragonflies and damselflies in downtown Houston, TX so I am assuming that they would also show up in Yorktown, VA.
Hi…I was wondering what anesthetizing agent you use (if you use) to photograph your damselflies. Or could you say how you get them to sit still. It is obvious you collect them and bring them back into a controlled environment. Are they truly alive? Jeff
Answer: When we take photographs of dragonflies, we try to make sure to take them in their natural habitat. I don’t know how much time I have spent getting into position to take a picture only to have the intended subject fly away just as I was about to press the shutter release button on the camera. This has happened to me many more times than I care to remember.Scans, however, are a different matter. The fact that dragonflies are “cold blodded” helps a great deal in slowing them down so they can be scanned. They, like other insects, can not control their body temperature like we do. Their body temperature is affected by the temperature of the air around them. On cool mornings they will move out into the sunlight and expose the full length of their bodies to the warming sun rays. If they get too warm, they will point their tail directly toward the sun (called obelisking), thus decreasing the surface of their body exposed to the sun and helping reduce body temperature. If it gets really hot out in the sun, they retreat to the shade and perch until the temperature drops to a more suitable level for their activities. If they get too cold, they become inactive, but when the temperature increases, they become active again. We take advantage of this and simply put the dragonfly in the refrigerator for a short period of time to slow them down. After we scan them (which has to be done rather rapidly before they warm up) we can turn them loose.
I live on the 52nd floor and have a cement balcony. I often see dragonflies on the overhang from the balcony above. They seem to be using it as a sleeping spot. Is this unusual? I live a 10 minute walk from Lake Michigan. Marge – Chicago, IL
Answer: I do not have any experience at all with dragonflies in big cities, except around the bayous in Houston, TX and some of the small lakes in the Dallas Ft. Worth area. I did see a pair of dragonflies perched on the concrete front of a Bath and Body Shop in Madison, Wisconsin and have seen them on other buildings scattered throughout smaller towns in Texas. Dragonflies will perch on just about anything and often perch on concrete or stone walls, bridge railings, etc., especially in cool weather. The heat absorbed by the concrete lasts for quite a while (even after sundown). If the weather is cool they may be perching there to absorb some of the warmth. If they are perching underneath (in the shade), they may be using it as a cool spot to get out of the heat. Dragonflies are “coldblooded” creatures – coldblooded in that they are not able to control their body heat in the same way people do. If it is cool, they seek sunlight to help warm them. If it is too hot, they may point their tail toward the sun (called obelisking) to reduce the sunlight hitting their bodies and if it gets too hot, they retreat to the shade and perch until the temperature drops to a more suitable level for their activities.I do not know for sure, but doubt that it is all that unusual for dragonflies to perch in the manner you describe. A ten minute walk for you is about a 30 second flight for them.
I saw a pink dragonfly. Do you know what kind it is? Christine – Ft. Worth, TX
Answer: The dragonfly you saw was probably a male Orthemis ferruginea (Roseate Skimmer)! See photo at
I saw a dragonfly with a white tail, squared off wings, and a dark band at the tips of the wings. What kind is it? Phil – Fredricksburg, TX
Answer: The dragonfly you saw was probably a male Libellula (Plathemis) lydia (Common Whitetail). See photo at
I saw several bright, bright red dragonflies at a golf course near my home in Weatherford. I have never seen them before. What kind of dragonflies are they? Bill – Weatherford, TX
Answer: The dragonflies were probably male Neon Skimmers (Libellula croceipennis). See photo at
How many dragonflies and damselflies are found in Texas? Vandi – Conroe, TX
Answer: There are 147 species of dragonflies (Suborder Anisopter) and 74 species of damselflies (Suborder Zygoptera) which adds up to a grand total of 221 species of Odonates found in Texas. See checklist on John Abbot’s site at

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