Romance and courting have no place in the dragonfly mating ritual. In fact, it is a bit violent and somewhat unsettling. However, dragonflies must be doing something right, as they have existed for over 300 million years.
Using their extraordinary eyesight, a male dragonfly must identify a female of his own species. In a pond habitat that is home to many dragonfly and damselfly species, this may seem like a daunting task. However, male dragonflies are up to the challenge. They are able to target an appropriate breeding partner by observing the flight style, color, pattern and size of a female dragonfly.
The first step in the mating process is for the male dragonfly to subdue the female. The typical scenario looks like this. While in flight, the male approaches the female from behind, grabs hold of her thorax with his legs, and sometimes bites her in an effort to quickly subdue her. Pulling his abdomen forward, he uses his anal appendages (cerci) to hold her by the neck while continuing to fly with her in a formation referred to as tandem linkage.
The male dragonfly prepares for sex by transferring his sperm to his penis. Now comes the issue of joining the male's penis (located at the tip of his abdominal segment) to the female's genital opening (located near her neck). Once their sex organs are linked, the dragonfly couple forms a closed circle with their bodies.
Hold on, there is more. Since a female dragonfly will mate with multiple partners and only the last sexual partner will actually fertilize her eggs, the male dragonfly will scoop out the sperm of pervious mating partners using barbs on their penises. Once he has cleaned house (so to speak), the male dragonfly will position his sperm to maximize fertilization potential. Then he will stand guard and chase away any other males that attempt to mate with his partner.