Last fall Leonard and I were at Ash Creek (Lassen County CA) with friends, one of whom “rescued” a dragonfly from the water and placed it on a nearby willow branch. I believe the dragonfly was a female blue-eyed darner (Aeshna multicolor), interrupted while putting her fertilized eggs in the water.
Blue-eyed darners mate in flight. The male places a sperm packet on his abdomen. While joined in flight, the female picks off the sperm packet and uses it to fertilize her eggs, which she previously attached to vegetation near water. After fertilization, the female blue-eyed darner puts the eggs into the water. I do not think the rescued dragonfly was floundering and in need of assistance, but rather was placing her fertilized eggs in the creek.
Male blue-eyed darners have bright blue eyes, broad blue stripes on the sides of the thorax and an abdomen that appears almost entirely blue in flight, although it is a mosaic of blue, black and brown. Because of the mosaic pattern on the abdomen, dragonflies belonging to the Aeshna genus are called mosaic darners. Females of this species can look similar to males or they can have a non-male color form with green, yellow and brown replacing the male’s blue areas, as in the photographs. The eyes of the non-male colored females are yellow brown. A. multicolor females are separated from other members of the genus by a brown line across the face.
Also classified as Rhionaeshina multicolor, blue-eyed darners are large, common dragonflies that can be found in Western North America into Central America. They hunt on the wing for small, flying insects. Found near ponds, lakes and slow-moving streams, blue-eyed darners perch by hanging vertically. The naiads (water-dwelling larva) feed on small aquatic insects. After a couple years mature naiads crawl out of the water, shed and emerge as adult dragonflies.
Blue-eyed darners are one of the first dragonflies to emerge in the spring and fly into late fall (November).