Cyrano Darner

Nasiaeschna pentacantha (Rambur, 1842)

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Insecta (Insects)
Aeshnidae (Darners)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
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
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

Unlike most actively flying darners, this species is known to pluck prey items from herbaceous vegetation (Paulson 2011), a feeding technique termed "gleaning."

State Ranking Justification

This darner is almost always found in low densities at widely scattered locations, which seem to vary from year to year. Its distribution in New York seems to have shrunk considerably, from eight occupied counties historically, to just four during the mid 2000s (White et al 2010), none of which was historically known.

Short-term Trends

Prior to the New York Dragonfly and Damselfly Survey (White et al., 2010), this species was known from eight counites in central and southeastern parts of the state. During and after the survey it has been found in four different counties, but it was not rediscovered in any of the previously-known places. This suggests that although the species is rather widespread, it is very uncommon and local.

Long-term Trends

Populations of this more southerly distributed dragonfly apparently fluctuate rather markedly on its northern range boundary in the northeastern US and Canada.

Conservation and Management


Land use practices which might damage shoreline vegetation and floating and/or emergent vegetation in breeding waters could make the habitat less suitable. Also, run-off from surrounding lands that might lead to lower dissolved oxygen, such as fertilizers, could also reduce favorable conditions.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Lakeshore practices such as natural buffers that promote shoreline integrity of forests and healthy stands of native emergent and floating vegetation should serve to benefit populations of this species.

Research Needs

There is very little known about most aspects of this species' life history and population dynamics. The large distinctive adult dragonfly is rarely encountered, although exuviae can be surprsingly common (Pollard and Berrill 1992), which suggests it could be under-reported.



Thuis is primarily a lentic species in New York where it frequents egdes of medium-sized vegetated lakes and larger ponds, less often along swampy portions of slow flowing rivers. In the southern US where this species is more common, it is associated with lower pH lakes, with abundant emergent and floating vegetation and high concentration of dissolved oxygen and cooler water temperatures (Osborn 2005).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Eutrophic dimictic lake* (guide)
    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* (guide)
    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.
  • Red maple-hardwood swamp* (guide)
    A hardwood swamp that occurs in poorly drained depressions, usually on inorganic soils. Red maple is usually the most abundant canopy tree, but it can also be codominant with white, green, or black ash; white or slippery elm; yellow birch; and swamp white oak.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta)
  • Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)
  • Four-spotted Skimmer (Libellula quadrimaculata)


New York State Distribution

Current records lie in two distinct regions of the state, one inland along the eastern shoreline of Lake Ontario, and the other in the extreme southeast, north of New York City. This is generally not a species of the uplands.

Global Distribution

This widespread, but local, darner ranges from Texas and Florida, north to Wisconsin, eastward through Ontario to Maine.

Best Places to See

  • Grass Lake (St. Lawrence County)

Identification Comments

General Description

The aspect of this darner is stockier and greener than most other Aeshna. The eyes of the male are bright blue, with a blue-green face above to dull yellow on front. The thorax is brown with jagged green stripes. The thick abdomen has a complex green and brown striped pattern (see Paulson 2011).

Characters Most Useful for Identification

Its rather stocky body, with no waist and a projecting frons ("nose") and uniquely shaped blue abdominal markings are characteristic.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

Mature adults are the best life stage for the identification of all dragonflies. Larval (exuvial) identification requires the use of detailed taxonomic keys, can be difficult and unreliable, especially in the case of larvae that are not yet mature.


Males fly regular courses 4-6 feet above open water in a fluttering style of flight. They will also cruise over clearings in the forest, but rarely perch (Jones et al., 2008; Paulson 2011).


The larvae are generalist predators, while the adults feed on flying insects, incluidng other dragonflies.

Best Time to See

Winged adults have been discovered in New York for only about one month between early-mid June to early-mid July.

  • Reproducing
  • Larvae present and active

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

Similar Species

  • Green-striped Darner (Aeshna verticalis)
    In the Green-striped the forward-most stripe on the thorax is indented, but not bent in the middle. There is no black cross line on the face.
  • Swamp Darner (Epiaeschna heros)
    Cyrano has more extensive blue/ green covering the thicker abdomen and a prominent projecting frons ("nose").


Cyrano Darner
Nasiaeschna pentacantha (Rambur, 1842)

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

Additional Resources


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

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Osborn, R. 2005. Odonata as indicators of habitat quality at lakes in Louisiana, United States. Odonatologica 34:259-270.

Paulson, D. 2011. Dragonflies and damselflies of the east. Princeton University Press, Princeton,New Jersey, USA.

Pollard, J. B., & Berrill, M. 1992. The distribution of dragonfly nymphs across a pH gradient in south-central Ontario lakes. Canadian Journal of Zoology 70: 878-885.

Soltesz, Ken. 1992. Proposed Heritage ranks for New York State odonata. Unpublished report for New York Natural Heritage Program. 37 pp.

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.


About This Guide

This guide was authored by: Jeffrey D. Corser

Information for this guide was last updated on: March 30, 2017

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Nasiaeschna pentacantha. Available from: Accessed May 26, 2024.