Comet Darner Jennifer Schlick

Comet Darner
Jennifer Schlick

Class
Insecta (Insects)
Family
Aeshnidae (Darners)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
S2S3
Imperiled or Vulnerable in New York - Very vulnerable, or vulnerable, to disappearing from New York, due to rarity or other factors; typically 6 to 80 populations or locations in New York, few individuals, restricted range, few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or recent and widespread declines. More information is needed to assign either S2 or S3.
Global Conservation Status Rank
G5
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).

Summary

Did you know?

Although not breeding in every year, a population of Comet Darners has persisted at a pond in central Pennsylvania for over five decades (Shiffer and White 1995).

State Ranking Justification

This species is confined to the southern half of the state and most of the known occurrences are at imperiled (S2) Coastal Plain Ponds on Long Island. Further upstate, it has been found breeding at a few widely scattered locations in many different types of pond habitats.

Short-term Trends

Although discovered in fewer counties during the NYDDS, the range in New York seems to have expanded somewhat since pre-2000 (White et. al. 2010). The first known population in western New York was discovered in 2006 near Jamestown, and newly- discovered populations in the Finger Lakes region are reported to be quite abundant (Gregoire and Gregoire 2007). Comet Darners have also been observed further north in the Hudson Valley (Rensselaer, Saratoga Counties), but it is unclear whether these represent established breeding popualtions or wandering individuals.

Long-term Trends

The Comet Darner has been known from the New York City area since the late 1800s, and it's general range in the state seems to be relatively stable (White et al., 2010).

Conservation and Management

Threats

This species' Coastal Plain Pond habitat on Long Island is threatened by the introduction of grass carp, alterations to hydrology and water quality, as well as herbicides used to clear aquatic weeds from ponds. The most significant threat to their hydrology comes from commercial and residential development causing increases in the demand for fresh water. This causes drawdowns of the water table, altering the hydroperiod and generally diminishing the pond extent (NYNHP 2011). Upstate, the threats to this species' eutrophic pond habitat appear to be slight, especially because it seems to occupy a variety of different types of ponds.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

The most important management concern for Coastal Plain Pond habitats is the maintenance of a natural hydrologic regime and good water quality. Water supplies for new development and ditching, draining or impoundment activities should be weighed carefully. Storm water run-off, herbicide and pesticide use should also be minimized or eliminated in the vicinity of ponds. Where practical, wide (> 100') vegetated buffers should be managed to reduce storm-water, pollution, sediment and nutrient run-off and provide shading and roosting sites. Habitat alteration within the wetland and surrounding landscape should be minimized (NYNHP 2011). In upstate New York, this species has colonized new farm ponds about five years post-construction. The ponds were about 15-18 feet deep, fringed by sedges and cattails, of neutral pH, and containing abundant submerged aquatic vegetation including Chara and Potamogeton spp. (Gregoire and Gregoire 2006). Some of the ponds had small fish, while others were fishless. It is unclear what characteristics make certain farm ponds suitable, while the vast majority aren't occupied.

Research Needs

A clearer understanding of habitat requirements is desirable, especially the degree to which larvae can co-exist with predatory fish populations. The collection of exuviae (shed skins) from shoreline vegetation surrounding breeding ponds suggests that this species is much more abundant in localized areas than is indicated by the observation of adults only (Gregoire and Gregoire 2007). Thus, further research is needed to determine if significant numbers of adults disperse from their natal sites, possibly establishing new breeding populations.

Habitat

Habitat

This species inhabits a wide variety of (semi)permanent small lakes, coastal plain ponds, abandoned shallow quarry ponds, natural rocky ponds, and sometimes constructed farm ponds. The habitat feature in common seems to be an abundance of floating and submerged vegetation (especially Chara spp.) in eutrophic conditions. It frequents Coastal Plain Ponds with ample shoreline vegetation including Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata), rushes (Juncus spp.) and Plymouth Gentian (Sabatia kennedyana) (Carpenter 1991). Whether larvae of this species can co-occur with fish is unclear, but the adults are often the dominant species among many other common pond odonates.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Coastal plain pond (guide)
    The aquatic community of the permanently flooded portion of a coastal plain pond with seasonally, and annually fluctuating water levels. These are shallow, groundwater-fed ponds that occur in kettle-holes or shallow depressions in the outwash plains south of the terminal moraines of Long Island, and New England. A series of coastal plain ponds are often hydrologically connected, either by groundwater, or sometimes by surface flow in a small coastal plain stream.
  • Eutrophic dimictic lake
    The aquatic community of a nutrient-rich lake that occurs in a broad, shallow basin. These lakes are dimictic: they have two periods of mixing or turnover (spring and fall); they are thermally stratified in the summer, and they freeze over and become inversely stratified in the winter.
  • Eutrophic pond
    The aquatic community of a small, shallow, nutrient-rich pond. The water is usually green with algae, and the bottom is mucky. Eutrophic ponds are too shallow to remain stratified throughout the summer; they are winter-stratified, monomictic ponds.
  • Farm pond/artificial pond
    The aquatic community of a small pond constructed on agricultural or residential property. These ponds are often eutrophic, and may be stocked with panfish such as bluegill and yellow perch.
  • Quarry pond*
    The aquatic community of an excavated basin that is created as part of a rock quarrying operation. The sides of the basin are often very steep, thereby eliminating any shallow shoreline habitats. Water levels usually fluctuate, reflecting recent precipitation patterns. * probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Common Green Darner (Anax junius)
  • Azure Bluet (Enallagma aspersum)
  • Atlantic Bluet (Enallagma doubledayi)
  • Skimming Bluet (Enallagma geminatum)
  • Slender Bluet (Enallagma traviatum)
  • Lilypad Forktail (Ischnura kellicotti)
  • Chalk-fronted Skimmer (Ladona julia)
  • Swamp Spreadwing (Lestes vigilax)
  • Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta)
  • Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta)
  • Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)
  • Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella)
  • Four-spotted Skimmer (Libellula quadrimaculata)
  • Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)
  • Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia)

Range

New York State Distribution

The current stronghold is on Long Island where there are numerous occupied Coastal Plain Ponds. It ranges northward up the Hudson Valley to Albany County. Further inland, it has been reported from the Susquehanna watershed in Schuyler and Chenango Counties. A recent range extension was documented in far southwestern New York (White et al., 2010).

Global Distribution

The Comet Darner is considered a tropical species (Hine 1913) and the center of its North American distribution lies in southern Kentucky. It ranges north to New Brunswick, south to Cuba and west to Texas and Wisconsin.

Best Places to See

  • Robert Cushman Murphy County Park (Suffolk County)
  • Jamestown Audubon Center and Sanctuary

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

This is a large (3") powerful, fast-flying dragonfly. The males have a bright green unmarked thorax, a bright red abdomen and dark greenish eyes. The female thorax is entirely green, with a dull rusty abdomen and pale dorsolateral markings.

Characters Most Useful for Identification

The bright red abdomen of the male is diagnostic. The legs of both sexes are also reddish.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

Adult male

Behavior

These large, fleet dragonflies are usually observed flying rapidly over open water up to eight feet high, where they are very difficult to catch with an insect net especially because they seldom alight. They can often be observed at waterbodies far from breeding sites. Females oviposit in the stems of water lilies or other emergent vegetation (Carpenter 1991). Activity seems to be more prevalent during early morning and late afternoon hours (Gregoire and Gregoire 2006).

Diet

Adults are aerial generalist insect predators and are the dominant dragonfly where they occur (Carpenter 1991); larvae are also highly predatory and can even take small vertebrates such a minnows and amphibian tadpoles.

Best Time to See

This species has an extended flight season in New York from early June to mid September, with the majority of site records coming during July (White et al. 2010). A well-studied pond in central New York had emergence dates of June 16 to August 26, with a peak in late June (Gregoire and Gregoire 2007).

  • Reproducing
  • Larvae present and active

The time of year you would expect to find Comet Darner reproducing and larvae present and active in New York.

Similar Species

  • Common Green Darner (Anax junius)
    Common Greens are slightly smaller and lack the bright red abdomen of the Comet. Also note the lack of a bullseye on the head of the Comet Darner that is present of the Common Green Darner. Female Comets look very similar to Common Greens, but have deep blue eyes.

Comet Darner Images

Taxonomy

Comet Darner
Anax longipes Hagen, 1861

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Mandibulata (Mandibulates)
      • Class Insecta (Insects)
        • Order Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies)
          • Family Aeshnidae (Darners)

Additional Resources

References

Carpenter, V. 1991. Dragonflies and damselflies of Cape Cod. Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. Brewster, MA. 79 pp.

Donnelly, T. W. 1992. The odonata of New York State. Bulletin of American Odonatology. 1(1):1-27.

Gregoire, J., and S. Gregoire. 2006. Breeding population of Anax longipes discovered in the Finger Lakes Highlands of New York. Argia 19:16-17.

Gregoire, S., and J. Gregoire. 2007. Anax longipes (Comet Darner) breeding population expanding in New York. Argia 19:12-13.

Hine, J.S. 1913. A note on Anax longipes. The Ohio Naturalist XIV:219.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2011. Online Conservation Guide for Coastal Plain Pond. Available from: http://www.acris.nynhp.org/guide.php?id=9889.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Nikula, B., J.L. Loose, and M.R. Burne. 2003. A field guide to the dragonflies and damselflies of Massachusetts. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Westborough, MA. 197 pp.

Roble, S. M. 1999. Dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) of the Shenandoah Valley sinkhole pond system and vicinity, Augusta County, Virginia. Banisteria 13:101-127.

Rosche, L., J. Semroc, and L. Gilbert. 2008. Dragonflies and Damselflies of northeast Ohio. Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Shiffer, C.N, and H.B. White. 1995. Four decades of stability and change in the odonate populations at ten acre pond in central Pennsylvania. Bulletin of American Odonatology 3:31-40.

White, Erin L., Jeffrey D. Corser, and Matthew D. Schlesinger. 2010. The New York Dragonfly and Damselfly Survey 2005-2009: distribution and status of the odonates of New York. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY. 450 pp.

Links

About This Guide

This guide was authored by: Jeffrey D. Corser

Information for this guide was last updated on: May 16, 2011

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. Online Conservation Guide for Anax longipes. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/comet-darner/. Accessed July 21, 2019.

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