This is a mature male Cardinal Meadowhawk, Sympetrum illotum, claiming a territory and waiting for a mate to come to our backyard pond in Sebastopol, CA.
Here is a female Cardinal Meadowhawk, Sympetrum illotum, hiding out in our backyard in Sebastopol, CA, not yet at the pond to oviposit (lay eggs).
Once a female appears at the pond, he will 'court' her by grabbing her behind her
using his appendages at the end of his abdomen (tail) and tow her in the tandem position.
IF she is receptive, they will mate in the 'wheel' position. This is unique to dragonflies.
Then, after mating, he will tandem tow her to the pond and guard her this way while she lays her eggs.
She'll tip her hind end into the water and wash off about 12 -300 eggs.
This is a picture of a 'cousin' of the Cardinal Meadowhawk, the Western Meadowhawk, showing an 'in-hand' female laying eggs.
Her eggs are about the size of this period --> . When first laid they appear to be white, but as the eggs begin to develop they turn a darker color.
A tiny nymph (larva) will hatch from each egg in about 2 week's time.
It will grow and live underwater for about one year.
Here's a nymph I took out of the pond and placed on a white piece of paper since I didn't have an underwater camera!
I noticed the nymph as it climbed up on the Mare's Tail stem.
This image shows it as it has just split open it's exoskeleton and it's eyes and upper thorax can be seen rising out of it.
Then I picked the stem with the emerging dragonfly on it, and placed it in a cup of water where I could more easily photograph it.
Here the new dragonfly's head, thorax, legs and crumpled wings have emerged from the exoskeleton and, totally vulernable, it now hangs, helpless, for ~30 mins. while its legs harden up enough to be used.
When its legs finally dry and harden, the dragonly makes a sudden lurch upward, grabs onto its old exoskeleton and pulls the rest of its abdomen out.
Here the new dragonfly is totally free from its shell (now called an exuvia).
Now it begins to expand its wings, abdomen, and even its eyes!
This is the only time in its life when a dragonfly holds its wings closed, above the abdomen.
Note that the fresh dragonfly is at least twice as long as the exuvia he emerged from.
The new dragonfly climbs upward, spreads its wings for the first time, and then leaves the area to mature.
The new dragonfly at this point is called a "teneral" - think of him as being 'tentative' as opposed to fully ready!
After a week or so of maturing away from the pond, the young male may return before he is completly 'colored up'
- sort of like a teenager learning his way in this world!
If you have questions, email Kathy Biggs