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Western Flying Adder (Cordulegaster dorsalis)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Western Flying Adder

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Black and yellow Western Flying Adders are long-bodied dragonflies that are at home in the Pacific Northwest.

Updated: 07/15/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The Western Flying Adder is part of the very common summer flying insect group generally referred to as dragonflies. They appear quite large when compared to most insects measuring about 70mm to 85mm in length. With their wings spread, they reach widths of up to 135mm. Coloring on these creatures is quite impressive, yielding an almost brown to black surface with accents of yellow at intervals.

Western Flying Adders, like most other dragonflies, can be found near streams and woods. This particular species is 'western' thanks to a range that lies west of the Rocky Mountains and north into Canada. Unlike other dragonflies, Western Flying Adders are not particularly aggressive toward other species of dragonflies.

In early spring, females insert their eggs into soft wood or plants near creeks or streams using a long syringe-like ovipositor. The young, hairy naiads (juveniles) hatch and then make their way to into water and burrow into the sandy or silty bottom. They emerge from these hiding spots to feed on other aquatic insects using their large spoon-shaped lower lip. They mature rather quickly and are fully developed adults by late spring.

Known Diet of the Western-Flying-Adder

small insects, worms, tadpoles

General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Hairy insect icon


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Odonata
        Family: Cordulegastridae
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          Genus: Cordulegaster
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            Species: dorsalis
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Cordulegaster dorsalis
Other Name(s): Pacific Spiketail
Category: Dragonfly or Damselfly
Size (Adult; Length): 70mm to 135mm (2.75" to 5.31")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: green; black; yellow
Descriptors: flying, hairy

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 70mm (2.8in) and 135mm (5.3in)
Lo: 70mm
Md: 102.5mm
Hi: 135mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Western Flying Adder may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Western Flying Adder. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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