Species Spotlight: The Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly

By Annie Perry, MNA Intern

Whenever I see an abundance of dragonflies outside, I think one thing: it’s going to be a bad day for biting flies. I never stop to think about the role dragonflies play in the ecosystem—such as catching and eating the smaller flying insects many humans find pesky, like mosquitoes, biting flies and gnats—or how some dragonfly species may be threatened or endangered.

Adult male Hine’s emerald butterfly. Photo by Ken Mierzwa. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

It turns out Michigan is home to an endangered dragonfly: the Hine’s emerald dragonfly.

The Hine’s emerald dragonfly can be recognized by its emerald green eyes, metallic green body and yellow stripe on its size. Its body is about 2.5 inches long and has a wingspan that reaches 3.3 inches.

The Hine’s emerald dragonfly lives in sedge meadows on dolomite bedrock and spring-fed marshes that are high in calcium carbonate. Today, the dragonfly is only found in Michigan, Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin, but was previously also found in Alabama, Indiana and Ohio.

Habitat loss or degradation is the greatest threat to the Hine’s emerald dragonfly. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Hine’s emerald dragonflies rely on wetland or stream areas with good water quality for growth and development, but most of this wetland habitat has been drained and filled for urban and industrial development. The wetlands that still remain are being contaminated by pesticides and other pollutants. In addition, development is decreasing the amount or quality of groundwater flowing into these habitats.

The first step in preventing extinction of the Hine’s emerald dragonfly happened in January 1995, when the species was added to the U.S. List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service created a recovery plan that gives actions needed to help the dragonfly survive, and researchers are currently studying how to best manage the species and its habitat. The Hine’s emerald dragonfly’s habitat is being protected and improved where possible, and public education programs are being developed to help communities learn about the endangered dragonfly.

The USFWS lists three ways people can help save the Hine’s emerald dragonfly from extinction: learn about the dragonfly and other endangered and threatened species, and share that knowledge with others; join a conservation group or volunteer at a local nature center, zoo or wildlife refuge; and protect water quality by properly disposing of paint and other toxic products, recycling used car oil and limiting use of pesticides and other lawn chemicals.

For more information about the Hine’s emerald dragonfly and other Michigan endangered species, visit the USFWS website.