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Hine’s emerald dragonfly larvae are ready to be released into their original swamp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Photo by Dawn Marsh/USFWS.

Hine’s emerald dragonfly larvae are ready to be released into their original swamp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Photo by Dawn Marsh/USFWS.

Hine’s emerald dragonfly larvae releases boost recovery effort

The endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly is among North America’s most imperiled dragonflies, facing threats like habitat loss, environmental contaminants and changes in groundwater. Among recovery strategies for the dragonfly is the release of Hine’s larvae using offspring reared at three facilities: Genoa National Fish Hatchery, the Urban Stream Research Center, operated by the DuPage Forest Preserve District, and the Illinois Dragonfly Research Center, run by the District and the University of South Dakota.

Hine’s emerald dragonfly larvae were released into a stream-fed wetland. Photo by Christie Deloria/USFWS.
Hine’s emerald dragonfly larvae were released into a stream-fed wetland. Photo by Christie Deloria/USFWS.

In partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the University of South Dakota, we have been working to raise and release Hine’s emerald dragonfly larvae in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The effort began in 2011, when Hine’s emerald dragonfly eggs were collected from an Upper Peninsula swamp by researchers from the University of South Dakota as part of a study funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The study aimed at defining the genetic population structure and productivity of Hine’s emerald dragonfly sites located within the Great Lakes basin. The following year, the eggs hatched, and the larvae were separated into two groups. Each group was raised either indoors in a laboratory facility or in outdoor cages as part of a study examining larval growth rates across a variety of habitats. The larvae spent five years contributing to ongoing research at the University before returning to Michigan.

Coastal Program staff, Christie Deloria-Sheffield and Dawn Marsh, received 24 Hine’s emerald dragonfly larvae from Dr. Daniel Soluk of the University of South Dakota. Coastal Program and U.S. Forest Service staff successfully released the larvae back into the swamp from which they were originally collected. During late spring and early summer of 2017, the larvae will emerge and molt into their breeding adult form. As adult dragonflies, they will live four to five weeks. It is hoped the released larvae contribute to and boost the local Hine’s emerald dragonfly population this summer.

In Illinois, larvae were released at Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve in Romeoville, and at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve in Lemont, Illinois. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Hine’s emerald dragonfly Recovery Coordinator Kristopher Lah, noted the importance of releasing larvae in Illinois. Lah said the Illinois population is the species’ second most diverse and is in a downward trend, with an estimated population range of 86 to 313 adults (recovery goal is 1,500). About 84 to 91 percent of the population’s reproduction occurs at the two sites, but this population is experiencing the greatest magnitude of threat and is the most vulnerable to extirpation.

The Hine’s emerald dragonfly is found in Missouri and northeast Wisconsin, as well as Illinois and Michigan. The species is associated with areas of groundwater-fed wetlands that are perched over limestone bedrock.

By the mid-1900s, the Hine’s emerald dragonfly was believed to be extinct. In 1988, a specimen collected in the Des Plaines River Valley southwest of Chicago was later identified as this species. Subsequent surveys uncovered additional populations there, as well as northeast Wisconsin, Michigan, and Missouri. Adults lay their eggs in small streams in fens and sedge meadows. After hatching, the aquatic larvae spend up to five years in wetlands before completely maturing and emerging as adult dragonflies.

By Dawn Marsh
Michigan Ecological Services Field Office

and

Kristopher Lah
Chicago Ecological Services Field Office

Last updated: June 8, 2020