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  • Writer's pictureTerry Wise

The Big Red Dragon(flie)s of Carillon Stonegate Pond!

Watching out over Carillon Stonegate Pond yesterday and saw this flash of brilliant red. Zooming up and down the shoreline and out ten feet into the pond.

It was a Carolina Saddlebags!

At first glimpse, you sight a large, red dragonfly. The Carolina Saddlebag is one of the boldest and brightest colored dragonflies. It has a bright red body and distinctive reddish-brown patches on the wings. A close up of its head reveals a purple-blue metallic face and large eyes that are bright red on top and dark below. Rear wings have a large reddish-brown patch or “saddlebag”, while the rest of its wings are clear with red wing veins. The bright red abdomen has black spots that cover the top and most of the sides of segments 8 and 9. On segment 10, there is a dark top spot. And it has black legs.

Carolina Saddlebags are large as dragonflies go. They are two (2) inches in length. And their wingspan is approximately three (3) inches.

Carolina Saddlebags - like other dragonflies - are expert fliers. They can fly straight up and down, hover like a helicopter and even mate mid-air. They are strong, fast flyers, able to reach speeds of up to seventeen (17) mph. If they can’t fly, they’ll starve because they only eat prey they catch while flying. Carolina Saddlebags are active daytime fliers.

On hot days - like yesterday, Carolina Saddlebags may perch with their abdomen angled downward (seen in several photos); a reverse “obelisk” position that has the similar result of averting overheating by minimizing the amount of sun that strikes the abdomen.

And always good to see the Carolina Saddlebags around our pond as their favorite food are mosquitoes. And they munch down a lot.

The Carolina Saddlebag is found throughout eastern North America - from Nova Scotia south to Florida and west to Texas. They can be rare, especially in northern portions of their range. Carolina Saddlebags prefer shallow, thickly vegetated ponds, swamps, and marshlands.

Interesting Facts About the Carolina Saddlebags and dragonflies:

  • Carolina Saddlebags are often called “dancing gliders” because of their unusual mating flight behavior.

  • Carolina Saddlebags get their name from the large dark patches on their hind wings that seem to straddle their abdomen like the pack on a horse.

  • Carolina Saddlebags are also known as Violet-masked Gliders.

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

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