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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Lance-tipped Darner - Aeshna constricta

Potential Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S1S3
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status

External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
The Lance-tipped Darner is currently ranked S1S3 as a "potential species of concern" in Montana because it is potentially at risk of extirpation in the state due to limited and/or declining numbers, range and/or habitat, even though it may be abundant in some areas.
General Description
The Lance-tipped Darner is a member of the family Aeshnidae. Darners are among the largest and fastest-flying North American dragonflies, 2 1/4-4 3/4" (57-120 mm) long. These brilliant blue, green, or brown insects have large, clear wings spanning up to 5 7/8". Their compound eyes meet on top of the head. The female hovers above water usually attached or guarded by the male and, using a well-developed ovipositor for slicing into emergent plants, thrusts eggs one at a time in the stems. Preferred habitat includes open, shallow marshy ponds, including some that are temporary, as well as the edges of larger open lakes, bogs, and slow streams. Wetland systems: Western Emergent Marsh, Northern Rocky Mountain Wooded Vernal Pool and the Rocky Mountain Subalpine-Montane Fen, Great Plains Open Freshwater Depressional Wetland, Great Plains Prairie Pothole

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
This species has a widespread range across much of North America, except in the deep south. In Montana, distribution is state-wide within the preferred habitats.

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 59

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Lance-tipped Darners inhabit open, shallow marshy ponds, including some that are temporary, as well as the edges of larger open lakes, bogs, and slow streams. Many of the ponds selected for breeding dry up during the year (Dunkle 2000, Paulson 2009). They hunt, often in swarms, over marshes and fields and tend to perch vertically on low vegetation and shrubs, but will also perch on trees and branches (Dunkle 2000, Paulson 2009).

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2012.  Mammals of Montana.  Second edition.  Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana.  429 pp.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
Larvae feed on a wide variety of aquatic insects, such as mosquito larvae, other aquatic fly larvae, mayfly larvae, and freshwater shrimp. They will also eat very small fish and tadpoles.
Adult- The dragonfly will eat almost any soft-bodied flying insect including mosquitoes, flies, small moths, mayflies, and flying ants or termites.

Reproductive Characteristics
Male Lance-tipped Darners are territorial and patrol small areas along the shoreline or through semi-open vegetation, but flight is slower with less hovering compared to the Canada Darner (Aeshna canadensis). Females oviposit slowly and selectively on the stems of cattails (Typha spp.) and sweetflag (Acorus americanus) often well above the surface of the water in areas that tend to dry out. (Dunkle 2000, Paulson 2009).

Threats or Limiting Factors
Drought is a significant threat to this species as it selects wetlands and ponds for breeding that dry up during the year. In drought years, many of these habitats will already be dried up and breeding locations become scarce.

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Citation for data on this website:
Lance-tipped Darner — Aeshna constricta.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from