The very first Dragonhunter, Hagenius brevistylis, that I ever saw was eating one of my favorite butterflies, a Monarch (Danaus plexippus). I was fascinated by the size and appearance of this over-sized clubtail and repulsed by its choice of this particular food item at the same time! Dragonhunters, of course, get their colloquial name from their penchant for eating other dragonflies (and damselflies) but they also attack and eat other large prey items, like one of the largest butterflies in Nova Scotia, the Monarch. Photo: Roaches Pond, Spryfield, August 4, 2008.
Four years later, on July 12, 2012, I found this Dragonhunter chowing down on a Lancet Clubtail, Gomphus exilis, along the McIntosh Run in Spryfield. The Lancet Clubtail is not the smallest of the clubtails in Nova Scotia, by any stretch, but it does nicely illustrate the massive size of Dragonhunters.
About a month later, at Roaches Pond in Spryfield on August 24, 2012, I found this Dragonhunter eating a Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui. Painted Ladies (and Red Admirals and other migrants) were very common in 2012. Still, this Painted Lady is only about one-half the size of an average Monarch.
Skip forward to August 14th of this year, again at Roaches Pond, I found this Dragonhunter eating one of the abundant Meadowhawks (Sympetrum sp) that confound me in more ways than one: Meadowhawks are a major distraction at this time of year, there are so many of them and seeing them out of the corner of my eye keeps my head turning (and saying, "Damn Meadowhawks!"), and there are five species that all look alike and can be difficult to tell apart. Go, Dragonhunter, Go!