Last updated on April 23, 2014 at 21:24 EDT

Wandering Glider, Pantala flavescens

The wandering glider (Pantala flavescens), also known as the globe skimmer, is a species of dragonfly that can be found in a large range that includes Easter Island and Europe, although it is rare here, but it typically occurs in tropical and subtropical areas as well as cooler areas like Northern Canada, depending upon the season. This species has been recorded flying at heights of 20,341 feet in the Himalayas, higher than any other dragonfly species.

The wandering glider reaches an average body length of 1.7 inches, with a wingspan that reaches between 2.8 and 3.3 inches. The hairy thorax is yellow or gold in color with a black line, although some individuals have a brown or olive green thorax. The front side of the head is reddish to yellowish in color and the broad wings can vary in color from yellow to olive to brown. Because of this, the species has been described as many other species and given various names. The wings of males are typically darker than those of females, but it has also been found that individuals that reside on islands are darker in color overall.

As is typical to dragonfly species, the wandering glider can mate many times throughout its life cycle. After mating, males remain attached to females, who fly low over water and dip their abdomens into the water, laying eggs in protected areas with aquatic vegetation. The eggs hatch and develop into adults after 38 to 65 days, allowing generations to occur in stable and temporary water sources. Larvae can reach an average length between .9 and 1 inches and are typically light green in color with light brown spots. The larvae consume a number of aquatic invertebrates like other insect larvae and tadpoles. Adults and semi-adults, known as imagos, consume small flying insects.

The wandering glider will gather in swarms during the autumn months, using moist thermal winds to fly at high altitudes. This flight pattern is used during migration. Individuals residing on islands typically fly about 8.2 feet above the ground, while individuals found in continental areas fly at up to 13.1 feet above the ground and can fly in bad weather. The species is common in most areas of its range and does need legal protection, but in some areas of the United States and Canada, it is protected due to slightly lower population numbers.

Image Caption: Wandering glider, Pantala flavescens. Pictured in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Wikipedia

Wandering Glider Pantala flavescens