Halloween Pennant

Common Name: Halloween Pennant.

Scientific Name: Celithemis Eponina.

What to look for?  Small, colorful dragonfly with orange and dark-tinted wings - the colors of Halloween! The Halloween Pennant is easily recognized by the large amount of orange or yellow and brown in the bands on its wings. The adult male has a red face, stigmas and markings on the top of the abdomen. and The male Halloween Pennant is more intensely colored than the female. Once you know what to look for, their markings make them one of our most recognizable and easily identified dragonflies. Female Halloween Pennants showcase a yellowish face, elongated yellow heart-like marks along the top of the abdomen, and yellow stigmas. Many sources refer to them as “butterfly-like” because of their bouncy flight and colorful wings.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? The Halloween Pennant will be found here from late June to September. Look for them flying around the water’s edge. They will perch on tips of our tall grasses and water plants surrounding our ponds. They will perch for lengthy periods and then fly away, only to return to the same perch.

How big are they? Small dragonfly! The Halloween Pennant averages less than one and one-half inches in length. And their wingspan is approximately one and one-quarter inches.

What are their flight patterns? The Halloween Pennant is an active flier - although you may more often see them while they perch. The Halloween Pennant has a fluttering flight that has been compared to that of a butterfly. They stay low and often fly among the sedges, rushes and marsh grasses along the Carillon Stonegate Pond’s edge. From their perches located at the tip of tall grasses and wildflowers, they fly out to capture prey.

How else do they behave? Unlike many other dragonfly species, the male Halloween Pennant is not territorial. The male Halloween Pennant uses its flight pattern to entice a female into its habitat. To minimize the amount of sun that hits their body, Halloween Pennants and some other dragonflies perch in a “tail-up” posture (wings lie at ninety degrees to the body) called the “obelisk position.” Perched, they often hold their front wings at a different angle than their hind wings.

What’s for dinner? The food habits of the Halloween Pennant – like all dragonflies - depends on their life stage. Adults eat flying insects such as mosquitoes, flies, and gnats that they hunt mainly during the day. They catch their prey during flight. During their larval stage, the naiad primarily eats aquatic insects such as mosquitos or other odonate larvae. The larger naiads may even eat fish and gastropods, crustaceans, and tadpoles.

Where do they take up residence? The Halloween Pennant is found across most of the Eastern U.S. and areas of Canada’s southern provinces. Halloween Pennants tend to prefer still bodies of water, including marshes, ponds and lakes that are well exposed to sunlight and with emergent vegetation – which makes Carillon Stonegate Pond a great locale!

When and where do they breed and nest? Halloween Pennants mate near ponds. When they reproduce, they will fly in tandem and form a wheel or heart shape (“wheel formation”). After males and females mate, the female lays her eggs in dead vegetation in the shallow water of a pond’s edge, flying in tandem with the male. He will eventually depart and she continues to lay eggs solo, tapping her abdomen on the water’s surface, breaking through the surface film so the 800 or more eggs can be washed off of the tip of her abdomen. Once the Halloween Pennant eggs hatch, the life cycle of a dragonfly larva begins as a nymph. A nymph looks like a little alien creature or a squat bug. They live underwater and eat smaller aquatic insects including other naiads sharing the same pond. This phase of their life cycle can take up to several years to complete. They eventually emerge from the water and begin crawling on land to attach to a shrub or low plant. They will molt again and emerge as adults in late spring or summer, depending on the climate.

Where do they migrate? Halloween Pennants do not migrate.

Do they make any interesting sounds? No.

Interesting Facts About the Halloween Pennant (and dragonflies in general):

  • The reason for the “pennant” in their name is that they resemble tiny flags streaming off the pond grasses.

  • And the reason for the “Halloween” in their name is that their orange and black coloring of their wing bands, especially of the male, is reminiscent of the shades of spooky holiday at the end of October.

  • Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve, some 300 million years ago and had wingspans of up to two feet.

  • There are more than 5,000 known species of dragonflies, all of which (along with damselflies) belong to the order Odonata, which means “toothed one” in Greek and refers to the dragonfly’s serrated teeth.

  • In their larval stage, which can last up to two years or more, dragonflies are aquatic and eat just about anything—tadpoles, mosquitoes, fish, other insect larvae and even each other.

  • At the end of its larval stage, the dragonfly crawls out of the water, then its exoskeleton cracks open and releases the insect’s abdomen, which had been packed in like a telescope. Its four wings come out, and they dry and harden over the next several hours to days.

  • Some adult dragonflies live for only a few weeks while others live up to a year.

  • Nearly all of the dragonfly’s head is eye, so they have incredible vision that encompasses almost every angle except right behind them.

  • Dragonflies, which eat insects as adults, are a great control on the mosquito population, consuming up to hundreds of mosquitoes per day.

For more information on the Halloween Pennant and sources of information used in this blog (these are the several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Odonata Central, Iowa State University's Guide, U.S. National Park Service, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, Animal Diversity and University of Florida Entomology.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!