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Mated MeadowhawksDragonflies and damselflies mate as frequently as they can.  For some species, if a female enters a male's territory, she will immediately be approached by the male and the couple will mate without any preliminary courtship. Even in some non-territorial species, if the male sees the female he will simply try to grab her. In some species, there is often a courtship ritual.  Several males may pursue the same female.  This is commonly seen in damselflies.  Females will exhibit various signals to indicate their acceptance or rejection of a male.  One common signal is the downward curving of the female abdomen.  When she accepts the male, the mating process begins.

Before actual mating occurs, the male dragonfly must transfer sperm from the tip of his abdomen to his secondary genitalia located under abdominal segment 2. The male will bend his abdomen forward so that the tip touches his secondary genitalia, transferring the sperm. After the transfer of sperm is completed, mating can take place.

Some dragonflies may mate while flying, others may perch, sometimes high in trees. Most damselflies land to mate and are frequently observed mating while perched.

When dragonflies mate, the male grabs the female with his legs and attempts to get hold of the back of the female's head with his claspers.  This is usually completed without injury, but some species that grasp the female's head so tightly that they can actually puncture the back of the head. In damselflies, the pro-thorax is held.

The dragonflies are now said to be "in tandem", with the male in front, and the female behind. To complete the union, the female dragonfly curls her abdomen forward to contact the male's secondary genitalia. Their bodies are now in the "Wheel" position. Romantics point out that this position, especially in damselflies, forms a heart shape. This final stage of mating can be as short as a few seconds or as long as several hours. This is the time when sperm transfer now takes place.

The female's eggs are not fertilized immediately.  She can store the sperm until she finds a safe place for her eggs to be laid.  She may mate with other males, and the resulting dragonflies may have the genes of several sperm donors. In some species, the male will remove existing sperm from the female genitalia which is from an earlier mate, than replace it with his own sperm.

© 2020 Sheryl Chacon Search