Dragonfly Guide


Rambur, 1842

The Aeshnidae, also called aeshnids, hawkers, or darners, is a family of dragonflies. The family includes the largest dragonflies found in Europe and North America and among the largest dragonflies on the planet.


Common worldwide or nearly worldwide. Genera are Aeshna and Anax. The African Anax tristis has a wingspan over 125 mm, making it one of the world's largest known dragonflies. Most European species belong to Aeshna. Their American name darner stems from the female abdomens looking like a sewing needle, as they cut into plant stem when they lay their eggs.

The dragonflies mate in flight. The eggs are deposited in water or close by. The larvae (nymphs or naiads) are generally slender compared to those of other families, with a long and flat extensible lower lip (labium). The larvae are aquatic predators, feeding on other insects and even small fish.

The adults spend large amounts of time in the air and seem to fly tirelessly. They can fly forwards or backwards or hover like a helicopter. The wings are always extended horizontally.

The abdomen are mostly colored blue and or green, with black and occasionally yellow. The large, hemispherical, compound eyes touch in the midline. Individuals of this family have an extremely good sight, and are voracious insect predators.

A proposal has been made to split this family into Aeshnidae and Telephlebiidae.

The name may have resulted from a printer's error in spelling the Greek Aechma, a spear. The spelling Aeschnidae has been intermittently used over a period of time, but is now abandoned for the original name Aeshnidae. However, derived genus names (such as Rhionaeschna) retain the 'sch' spelling, as this is how they were first cited.


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Distribution map. Data from gbif.org