Bush giant dragonfly

Also known as: devil's darning needle

Uropetala carovei (White)

Description: Eyes Separated dorsally by 2 mm; deep red brown to black
Thorax Deep brown darkening with age to black; yellow patches behind the eyes and a yellow band between the wing roots
Abdomen black with yellow lines (dorsal) which expand laterally to join on the ventral surface, so that from the side the animal seems to have each segment divided into a black triangle dorsally and a yellow triangle ventrally
Legs reddish
Length 79-86 mm. In the words of Rowe, this is "a very large dragonfly"
Emergence appears to be between December and March.
This and the mountain giant dragonfly are unusual in that their larvae are not aquatic as such, but live in burrows near the water, where they dig down to the water table, and whence they appear in darkness to predate insects and small creatures to be found wandering about nearby.
Differentiation of male and female The female is about the same dimensions as the male, but heavier - about half as much again. The male's abdomen is slimmer. The female's ovipositor is said to be "prominent".
Distribution Found in the North Island, Marlborough, Nelson, The West Coast and Southland. Most often to be seen at the edge of bush and scrub, or perhaps sunning on the trunks of trees or on the outside vegetation - or even on the surface of roads on the West Coast. Breeding colonies are small
Could be confused with Mountain giant dragonfly, which is slightly smaller; the ranges of the animals are not contiguous: the mountain giant is only to be found in Otago and Canterbury. The mountain giant also has a yellow patch below the eyes when seen from in front (the labrum), which in the bush giant is black.
Personal observations A slow and rather noisy flyer. The first two I met were content to rest on a hand, one by its own choice and one because I offered it a finger as a perch when it seemed not to be secure on its roost. Later encounters - younger adults - suggest that their flying can be better, and their tameness less.
Note in the picture of the animal on my hand the damage to the wings - half of the left front wing has been lost entirely, and the trailing edges of both the right wings are frayed. Perhaps from fighting, or from banging into vegetation (the bush is quite thick where we met).

Note too that the thorax appears "hairy" - which is not mentioned in Rowe - and when I checked with a contact at Te Papa, it was confirmed that this beast is indeed of a hairy appearance - it wasn't my camera technique! The third photo shows greater detail.

The first photo is of a male (note the two appendages at the end of the abdomen, which are diagnostic). The next two photos are of females - heavier beast, tail designed for laying eggs in damp soil - one of her ovipositing, showing the mossy bank in which she is doing the deed. The next photo is of larval burrows in a bank - note the trail of new clay from renovations following a fall in the water table following a dry period. The other two pictures are also of a female
Photograph details First photo taken by Susanne Vogel, Pupurangi Nature Sanctuary, Northland, in December 2017

All others taken by James Cowan: basking on a leaf and the female laying, on the Wellington Skyline walkway in 2009 and 2010; in Moore's Valley, Wainuiomata, in February 2009; and in a patch of bush on the Makara Walkway (the ones with the hand) in December 2013 (a felicitous Christmas!)

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