Largest Texas Dragonfly

I had a question from a woman this week who wanted to know what the largest dragonfly in Texas was.  She said she had recently spied one that was 8 cm (3.2 inches) long and had a 13 cm (5.1 in) wingspan.  She “figured if anyone would know the answer to the question it would be someone at Texas A&M.”

Giant darner, Jeff Davis County. Photo by Tripp Davenport on

While I was flattered that my correspondent would think that as a representative of Texas A&M I would have all the answers, I had to admit that I had no idea of the identity of the largest dragonfly in Texas.

I could have told her that I recalled there was an ancient dragonfly from 300 million years ago, Meganeura, with a wingspan of over two feet!  (I have a difficult time convincing my wife these days to consider a trip to the lake in the summer.  Too hot, she says. I can’t imagine trying to convince her to go kayaking or hiking with those suckers flying around.).  But that wasn’t very useful information, and I didn’t think my client would be that impressed.

I do know Dr. John Abbott at the University of Texas, however.  So I dropped him and email and learned quickly that the giant darner, Anax walsinghami, is the winner in the size category in Texas.  Not only is this the largest dragonfly in Texas, it’s the largest in North America.  A slow flying species, Abbott says in his web page that this species should be unmistakable by its size.  You may need to go to west Texas to see giant darners, though.

Aggies may not always know the answer to all bug questions, but we’re at least smart enough to know who to ask, even if he’s a Longhorn.

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