Monday, July 13, 2015

The Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly: Bringing Back A Beauty

Male Hine's emerald dragonfly. Photo courtesy of Kmierzwa/Creative Commons.
The Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin provides more than 30 million fish, eggs and mussels of more than 26 species to meet conservation and research needs all across the country, from New Mexico to Georgia. And now the hatchery is raising the federally endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly, the only dragonfly on the Endangered Species list.
Dragonflies play an important role in nature. They catch and eat small flying insects, including mosquitoes, biting flies and gnats. In their immature stage (larvae), dragonflies are an important food source for larger aquatic animals such as fish. They also serve as excellent water quality watchdogs.

The rare Hine’s emerald dragonfly was believed to be extinct by the mid-1900s, but in 1988, one was found southwest of Chicago. Other small populations were then uncovered in Wisconsin, Michigan and Missouri.

The Illinois population is on a downward trend, far from the recovery criteria of 1,500 adults and is well below what most research suggests is required to maintain a viable insect population. From a genetic standpoint, the loss of this population would be a heavy blow to the species overall.

The greatest threat to the Hine's emerald dragonfly is habitat destruction. Most of the wetland habitat that this dragonfly depends on for survival has been drained and filled to make way for urban and industrial development.

So while habitat restoration efforts are underway, there was a need for more dragonflies.
Enter Genoa National Fish Hatchery. Genoa, located within the Upper Mississippi Refuge Complex, has natural wetlands that are ideal habitat for Hine's emerald dragonflies. It also had plenty of experience raising species, not just fish.

As the dragonfly larvae mature (it can take five years for them to mature fully), they will be stocked in newly restored habitat areas just before they emerge.
We’ll be ready!