Superior National Forest Dragonfly and Damselfly Survey


This was the third year of the Superior National Forest (SNF) Odonate (i.e., dragonfly and damselfly) survey. The survey was galvanized by the partnership between the SNF and the Minnesota Odonata Survey Project, and it provided the public with an opportunity to help develop a species list for the forest (but most importantly to see different parts of the forest and have fun!). Anyone interested in learning more about dragonflies and damselflies, regardless of skill level, was invited to attend these weekends. The survey was done during three weekends throughout the summer (June 26 – 27; July 17 – 18; August 14 – 15) to capture different emergence times for species of interest (i.e. RFSS and Species of Special Concern).

Currently, the distribution and abundance of dragonflies and damselflies is poorly understood in many regions of Minnesota. Although, in a few counties, such as St. Louis and Lake County, species lists are fairly comprehensive. Despite relatively good species lists for the aforementioned counties, there is limited information regarding site specific locations for many species that may occur on the Superior National Forest. Additionally, because many species of dragonflies and damselflies are impacted by water quality, it makes them a valuable indicator of the health of our aquatic environments. By increasing our awareness of the presence of dragonflies and damselflies, it should aid silviculturalists and biologists in forest management decisions near aquatic environments. The goal of this survey was to: 1) develop a species list for the SNF, 2) identify site locations where species occur, and 3) provide the general public with an opportunity to learn more about Minnesota’s diverse odonate community.


Survey sites were chosen based on the habitat associations and/or river substrates species of interest likely occurred in, as well as the logistics of accessing the site. Although few sites were sampled >50 meters from a road, sample locations should have provided an indication of the odonate diversity found within a river or bog area.

At each site we randomly walked throughout the area searching for odonates – more often than not, we filled our nets with air rather than bugs (minus the mosquitos and horseflies!). If few adults were encountered, we spent time searching the vegetation for exuviae (i.e. shed larval skin) along river, lake, or wetland shorelines.

Twenty-two different sites were visited, with nine bog, seven stream, three lakes, and three wetland locations. Of the 22 sites sampled, 20 sites had not been previously sampled before, with resampling occurring at two sites. Resampling was done at sites with high species diversity in an attempt to monitor sites, as well as, gaining a more complete assessment of species composition.


Fifty-six species of dragonflies and damselflies were found during the three weekends, with 40 species of dragonflies and 16 species of damselflies. There were 27 species found at bogs, 25 species at rivers, 20 species at lakes, and 7 species at the wetland. There were six new Cook County records found this year (Horned Clubtail, Swift River Cruiser, Lake Emerald, Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Subarctic Bluet, and Northern Bluet). The overall composite list for the SNF is 83 species, with 61 dragonflies and 22 damselflies. The highlights of the season were Zigzag Darner (Species of Special Concern), Lake Emerald (species of interest), Delicate Emerald (species of interest), and Forcipate Emerald (Species of Special Concern). Interestingly, Zigzag Darners were found at 4 locations on the SNF, with darners observed ovipositing.

The best highlight of the season was the 34 participants that helped to collect this information and made the event a huge success! The survey was truly for everyone, as participants ranged in age from 9 to >60 years old. We had 11 participants for the 1st weekend, 17 participants for the 2nd weekend, and 6 participants during the 3rd weekend. There were twelve participants that returned from the 2009 survey. Also, seven participants attended more than one weekend event in 2010.



Volunteer , Participating


Minnesota Odonata Survey Project , Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

An Autumn Meadowhawk rests after feeding


Figure 4: An Autumn Meadowhawk rests after feeding


This program allows us to survey for our Regional Forester Sensitive Species (RFSS): Quebec Emerald. Additionally, this program provides an educational opportunity to the public, as well as helping get kids and adults into the woods.