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Statewide Survey of New Hampshire Dragonflies Completed

CONCORD, N.H.: Between 2007 and 2011, a small army of  net-wielding naturalists was unobtrusively scouring the wetlands of New  Hampshire for dragons - or more specifically dragonflies and damselflies. And they  found them - lots of them. Over those five years, roughly 100 volunteers  collected more than 18,000 records of dragonflies and damselflies, representing  157 of the 162 species known to occur in the state. They surveyed sites from  the southern border along the Connecticut River to Fourth Connecticut Lake  (only a couple of hundred feet from Canada), and at elevations from sea level  along the coast to the top of Mount Washington.

These citizen scientists were participating in the New  Hampshire Dragonfly Survey, a joint project of New Hampshire Audubon and the  New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Dragonflies and damselflies are easier  to study than many other insects, and they can serve as indicators of  ecological health and water quality. In addition, several species are  considered of conservation concern in the Northeast. A major goal of the survey  was to better understand the New Hampshire distribution of these species, while  at the same time collecting statewide data on the group as a whole.

With those 18,000 records now mapped and analyzed,  biologists can reassess which species might warrant conservation attention.  "The good news is that most of the rarer species turned out to be far more  common than previously believed," said Dr. Pamela Hunt, who coordinated the  project for NH Audubon. "We even doubled the number of sites for the state's  only endangered dragonfly - the ringed boghaunter - from 8 to 15." Particularly  impressive was the increase in sites known to support the scarlet bluet, a small  red damselfly that likes lily pads. "This species was unknown in the state  until 2002, and at the start of the dragonfly survey there were only five  sites," says Hunt. "Now they're known from over 40 sites, including as far  north as Berlin. Not bad for a bug that's supposed to occur in the coastal  plain!"

"It's really phenomenal what the survey volunteers have  been able to able to accomplish," says Fish and Game nongame biologist Emily  Brunkhurst. The Department funds the project through State Wildlife Grants,  recognizing the need for better data on the state's insect populations. "For  the first time, we now have comprehensive statewide data for an entire order of  insects." These data can now be used to revise the state's list of species of  conservation concern, and also serve as a baseline against which future changes  can be measured.

As for the small army of net-wielding "dragonhunters,"  they are already preparing for the upcoming season. The project may be  officially over, but this isn't stopping them from exploring new places, adding  species to town lists, or simply learning new things about these fascinating  insects. In fact, two volunteers kicked of the season in style by finding  emerging Hudsonian Whitefaces in southeastern New Hampshire on April 4 - fully  10 days earlier than any previous record of any dragonfly in the state. By the  end of April, 10 species had been recorded including the state-endangered  ringed boghaunter. "There's no stopping these folks," adds Hunt, "Once bitten  by the dragonfly bug it's really hard to put down your net!"

To learn more about the dragonfly survey, visit

About New Hampshire Audubon:   New Hampshire Audubon is an independent statewide  membership organization whose mission is to protect New Hampshire's natural  environment for wildlife and for people. It operates five nature centers  throughout the state that provide educational programs for children and adults.  It is also involved in statewide conservation research and wildlife monitoring  projects, protects thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, and advocates  for sound public policy on environmental issues. For information on New  Hampshire Audubon, including membership, volunteering, programs, and  publications, call 603-224-9909, or visit

About New Hampshire Fish and Game:   The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is the  guardian of the state's fish, wildlife and marine resources and their habitats.  Fish and Game's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program is the steward for  species not hunted, fished or trapped. Through wildlife monitoring and  management, plus outreach and education, the Nongame Program works to protect  over 400 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, as well as  thousands of insects and other invertebrates. The program works in cooperation  with other New Hampshire wildlife organizations to develop and implement  effective conservation strategies to protect and enhance this diverse group of  wildlife. Visit

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