By Allison Hagene
Listed as endangered since 1955, the Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly has struggled to maintain healthy populations. One main concern is habitat loss – humans have destroyed their ecosystems for development and agricultural purposes, which not only eliminates food sources, but also changes water levels where the dragonflies lay their eggs.
The farming industry has also caused setbacks for the dragonfly with the use of pesticides and herbicides. Toxic pollutants damage reproductive abilities, reduce healthy ecosystems and insect populations, and contaminate water sources – making them unable to support offspring.
The Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly is a unique insect with a long, dark body containing two yellow stripes, and large explosively green eyes. They live in high calcium carbonate spring-fed marshes and meadows where they eat mosquitos, gnats, and other small aquatic bugs. Dragonfly larvae can live up to five years, while adults live for, at most, seven weeks. Their short life span is filled with feeding, reproduction, and egg laying, making those seven weeks vital to species growth and survival.
Habitats for the dragonfly are few and far between, so when one ecosystem gets destroyed by agriculture or industry, the dragonflies can’t move on and others can’t repopulate the area, which makes their protection that much more cruical.
Initially the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service was slow to protect the dragonfly’s habitat, proposing only ideas to set aside property for ecosystem and species rehabilitation. Later in 2010, after other environmental agencies raised alarms, the service finally secured federal land for the dragonflies.
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service now encourages citizens to leave their properties wild for habitat preservation, to educate themselves and others about the dragonfly, to join environmental groups, and to protect water quality by using less water, fertilizers, and pesticides, and to also properly disposing of toxic chemicals like car oil and paint.
Hine’s Emerald Dragonflies can be found in Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. They can be found on public and private lands, in meadows and marshes, usually in areas with a water supply nearby for breeding.
The Missouri Department of Conservation suggests visiting areas in the southeast region of the state in order to observe limited populations of the dragonfly.
The Missouri Conservation has recorded sightings in the following counties: Phelps, Wayne, Reynolds, Ripley, and Shannon.
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