Skip Navigation LinksOdes For Beginners : Biology : Behavior : Territories

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Many male dragonflies establish territories when ready to mate. They search for an appropriate site in the breeding habitat. The territory will usually be the egg-laying site where females will show up. Once he has established a territory, the male will spend much effort defending it against other males, hoping for an opportunity to mate with any female that may enter it. Territories may be held for only a few hours, for several days, or even longer and may range from a few square feet to hundreds of feet of shoreline.

Patrolling Comet Darner
Comet Darners typically make long fast patrols.

The dragonfly's territory may be either SPATIAL or TEMPORAL. A dragonfly is being spatially territorial when the male assumes the weeds around him must be his.  A dragonfly is being temporally territorial when he is willing to give up his territory when conditions change, such as when the territory becomes shadowed.

The dragonfly uses several tactics to defend his territory. Some may actively patrol the territory, others may survey it from a strategic perch. Male dragonflies will often show their abdomen to attacking males as a warning to stay away; some might use their exceptional flying skills or larger size to their advantage.  Nevertheless, if the intruder does not get the message, the dragonfly will dart at and chase the attacker until the loser leaves the territory.

Some dragonfly and damselfly species show very strong territorial behavior while other species do not.  Skimmers are among the most territorial and aggressive. The airspace over a pond may be filled with rival males jousting over their territories. species such as Spiketails often cruise slowly through good habitat, hoping to encounter females.

For the non-territorial species, there usually will be a courtship or a recognition stage.  Several males may pursue the same female; this is commonly seen in damselflies.

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