Down Garden Services


Common Hawker Dragonfly

Scientific Name: Aeshna juncea
Other names: Sedge Darner, Moorland Hawker

picture of a common hawker dragonfly
The blue spots on each segment of a black abdomen indicate that this is a male.

Spotting a Dragonfly in the garden is enough to brighten any day and having some still water with vertical marginal vegetation may mean they will breed there as well.

The Common Hawker Dragonfly is found throughout the Britain and Ireland as well as the rest of Europe, Asia and North America. They are usually found in moorland areas where they hunt for food on the wing and have the ability to hover before swooping on their prey, known as hawking; hence their name.

The male and female can be easily distinguished. The former has a black abdomen with pairs of blue and yellow spots on each segment and the eyes have blue in them. The female has a brown abdomen with similar markings, but they are usually yellow, and the eyes are all brown. Both have a vein of yellow along the leading edge of the wing known as the costa, which distinguishes them from other Hawker species.

This specimen was encouraged onto a finger, only flying off when returned to its perch on the dead flowerhead of a Thalictrum

During mating the male grips the neck of the female from above with the claspers at the tip of it's abdomen. The female then curves her abdomen round to collect sperm from underneath the front of the male's abdomen. The eggs are deposited as the female dips her oviposter in the water, the male is sometimes still attached to the female's neck.

female commom hawker
Female Common Hawker depositing eggs.

The nymphs develop in the water feeding on small invertebrates, tadpoles or tiny fish which they spear with an extension of their lower jaw.

image of dragonfly exoskeleton
After two years in early summer, they climb up the stem of a marginal plant and the adult emerges full size leaving the empty skin behind. The picture above shows an empty exoskeleton sitting on the seed pod if a flag iris.

See also the Common Darter Dragonfly