Dragonflies (tombo) are so numerous in Japan that the country used to be known as “Dragonfly Islands” (akitsushima). There are more than 200 species (compared to around 40 in the UK). It is wonderful to see swarms of them flying above the rice fields in the summer, their legs held like tiny baskets under their bodies as they hunt for prey on the wing. Dragonflies are regarded as a sign of summer and, together with cicadas (semi), rhinocerous beetles (kabutomushi), and stag beetles (kuwagatamushi), these insects are favorites with Japanese children.

Pantala flavescens swarms

I went out yesterday specifically trying to get photos of as many species as I could find. I managed to get a few, but was feeling frustrated because I couldn’t get a photo of the huge “ogre drangonflies” (oniyanma) because they wouldn’t keep still long enough. Then, lo and behold, one arrived in the garden this afternoon! This is a superb insect, with a 10cm-long body and a wingspan of about 12cm. It’s the biggest species of dragonfly in Japan.

Here are the species I photographed this weekend. I hope that my identification is correct. Please let me know if anything is wrong.

Odonata: Anisoptera (true dragonflies)

Anotogaster sieboldiiAnotogaster sieboldii
Anotogaster sieboldii = oni yanma = “ogre dragonfly”

Pantala flavescensPantala flavescens
Pantala flavescens = usubaki tombo

Pseudothemis zonataPseudothemis zonata
Pseudothemis zonata = koshiaki tombo

Orthetrum triangulare melaniaOrthetrum triangulare melania
Orthetrum triangulare melania = ooshiokara tombo

Crocothemis serviliaCrocothemis servilia
Crocothemis servilia = shoujou tombo

I haven't identifiedI haven't identifiedI haven't identified
(I haven’t identified these ones yet)

a big meal for a small spider!
A big meal for a small spider!