Red-tailed Pennant
Brachymesia furcata
The Red-tailed Pennant (Brachymesia furcata) is a medium sized tropical pennant of Texas and other areas of the southern and southwestern U.S. This is page two of this species on this web site and shows a series of images of a young Red-tailed Pennant emerging from its exuviae. Go to page one here for more general images of this dragonfly as an adult. In the spring of 2006, I was privileged to spend a considerable amount of time on a private ranch near Edinburg, Hidalgo Co., Texas while participating in a wildlife photo contest. In late May, I noticed a number of dragonfly exuviae on the edge of a small cattle watering tank. Dragonflies spend most of their life as aquatic insects as larvae and live in the sand, mud or gravel on the bottom of streams, ponds and rivers. When the larvae is ready to become an adult it crawls out of the water and attaches itself to a stick, a leaf, a stone, or some other appropriate location, and over a several hour period the adult dragonfly emerges. The bug dries its wings for a while, then flies away to spend the rest of its life in the adult form with which we are more familiar. This emergence often occurs during the night in order to avoid birds and other predators who would eat the young dragonflies before their bodies have hardened and while their flight skills are poor. On several nights in late May and early June I sat along the edge of this cattle tank and watched this amazing process take place many times. I was able to take several hundred digital images of these occurrences and have posted a few here. All images here were taken with a Canon EOS 1D Mark II and EF 300mm F/4 L IS lens and 2X extender and 580 flash. In the first photo, the larvae has crawled up onto a cattail and attached itself. In the next three photos, you can see the young dragonfly beginning to emerge from the back of the exuviae.
These images show the young dragonfly continuing to emerge from the back of the exuviae.
In the four images previous we see the young dragonfly continuing its emergence. At one point the dragonfly reaches forward and upward to grasp the head and body of the exuviae and then pulls its abdomen free of the exuviae. At that point the wings begin to expand. You can watch the wings growing right before your eyes.
Finally, the young dragonfly spreads its wings to dry. It may stay in that position for several hours, then it suddenly flies away to spend the rest of its life as a flying insect. The entire process from the larvae crawling up on a cattail to the young dragonfly flying away took about three hours.
Here is another shot of two young Red-tailed Pennants which have just recently emerged from their exuviae and are waiting for their wings to dry and harden before flying away.