Looking for Northern Emeralds

Flanders Moss NNR

A couple of weeks back, with the expert help of Daniele Muir of British Dragonfly Society, and armed with kitchen implements, we headed out onto Flanders to look for our rarest dragonfly.

Flanders is one of the southern most locations in the UK for Northern Emerald, a dragonfly only found on northern bogs. It was only discovered here in 2007 and we are still finding out more about its lifestyle on the Moss. In the last couple of years we have been finding adults on the east side of the moss, in areas of restored bog. It could be really exciting if they have spread onto what was 20 years ago badly damaged bog before restoration.

Adult Northern Emerald seen at Flanders earlier in the year

So we headed out to look for the larva of these dragonfly, i.e. proof of breeding. The larva live is sphagnum filled pools, mooching around eating what invertebrates they come across in the murk and growing slowly – sometimes taking 4 years to reach adult hood. To find them this means sifting through thick beds of sphagnum moss and the best thing to do this with are kitchen sieves and colanders.

Unfortunately we found no Northern Emerald larva this time but this doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. But we did find other larva – mainly common hawkers and four-spotted chasers, equally fine species that are more common, plus a very beautiful adult common hawker waiting for the weather to warm up.

Common hawker larva
Four-spotted chaser larva
An adult common hawker taking a rest

So the search continues, but that is fine because the search is good fun.

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