African migrant

The Vagrant Emperor is a dragonfly species that usually lives in Africa. But, as the name already says, it does spread out every now and then. It needs warm, shallow pools for its larvae to grow, and after only 2.5 – 3 months the adults emerge. They can be seen in tropical Africa throughout the year and migrants can show up anywhere in Europe. They do regularly reproduce in the southern parts of Europe, but no populations have been established there yet.

Exuvia of Vagrant Emperor

The first Vagrant Emperor for the Netherlands was seen in 1995 and in the past years more and more were seen. Most of them were most likely second-generation animals from animals that were born in the southern parts of Europe. But no reproduction has been recorded in the Netherlands.

Freshly emerged Vagrant Emperor with a damaged wing

Until this year. This year was different. Together with a massive influx of Painted Ladies, quite a few Vagrant Emperors were seen in the Netherlands already in early summer. And they managed to find suitable habitat and were seen depositing eggs in several locations in the last weeks of June. And, fortunately for them, we had a hot summer so last week, almost 2.5 months after the eggs were deposited, it was time for the adult dragonflies to emerge. Some ponds where eggs were deposited had dried up during the summer, but at some places, many adults were seen. Vagrant Emperors emerge at night, so most adults are gone in the early hours of the day. Today I could only get there around noon, so I hoped that I could still find at least some exuviae and hopefully some adults as well. It wasn’t easy, but in the end, I managed to find two adult insects. Unfortunately, both were crippled. One I had to pick up from the water and was nearly drowned and had one wing that hadn’t folded out and hardened the right way, while the other also had problems with their wings. This does make sense of course, as the ones that did emerge the right way would have dispersed already. A bit a more thorough search of that area resulted in at least 10 more exuviae. It was really special to see these animals in the Netherlands. Who knows when this will happen again.


Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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