Confusing Summer Dragonflies (Family Libellulidae)

Today we take to the air with three big dragonflies that belong to a group called the King Skimmers; 12-Spotted Skimmer, Common Whitetail, and Widow Skimmer. Represented by 103 species in North America, the Skimmer family (Libellulidae) contains our most common and conspicuous dragonflies.

A Passel of Predators

The BugLady has been a fan of predators since she was old enough to lisp out the word. She likes the cuts of their collective jibs and their matter-of-fact fierceness. To her, the “eat-ers” are far more interesting than the “eat-ees.”

Pennants (Family Libellulidae)

Pennants are smallish dragonflies and there are just eight species in the genus. Most members of the genus are more eastern, but the ranges of the Calico and the Halloween take them southwest into the Great Plains. They are found near/lay their eggs in slow-moving to still waters. Several sources said that the young/naiads of these Pennants are not very competitive, and as such they are more successful in newer waters (burrow pits, ditches, etc). The naiads are great vegetation climbers and not-so-great swimmers.

Dot-tailed Whiteface Dragonfly (Family Libellulidae)

The Dot-tailed Whiteface Dragonfly is a member of the Skimmer family, Libellulidae. There are over a thousand species in this brightly-colored family gracing the skies worldwide. A tenth of those are native to North America, making Skimmers the largest American dragonfly family. DtWfs enjoy most kinds of quiet waters—bogs, marshes, swamps, sloughs, farm ponds, and even very slow streams—s long as there are low aquatic plants to perch on.

Skimmers Three (Family Libellulidae)

Skimmers make up the largest family of dragonflies, with more than 100 species in North America. Many come with arresting colors and/or patterns on both wings and body. Their flight is rapid and eccentric, and they may brake and hover. Like all dragonflies, both the adults and naiads are unapologetic carnivores. Today’s trio—the Four-spotted Skimmer, the Blue Dasher, and the Slaty Skimmer, show some of the diversity of the skimmers.

Black Saddlebags (Family Libellulidae)

Black Saddlebags are known for spending the greater part of each day in flight, rarely perching. They are strong flyers, and their flight is described as a “flap-glide” that may reach 17 mph. They patrol fields and pond edges for their prey—soft bodied flying insects like moths and mosquitoes which they eat on the wing—and large swarms of feeding males have been reported. The dark patches/bands on the wide hind wings shade their abdomens on sunny days.

Meadowhawks (Family Libelulidae)

Meadowhawks are common, colorful, a shade less than 1 ½ inches long, with red/yellow-orange abdomens and reddish/chestnut/rusty brown eyes. A few species are sexually dimorphic—the males and females are different colors. They like a variety of wetlands, though they are often found far from water. Meadowhawks tend to perch horizontally, often on the ground or on low vegetation, but some queue up in good numbers on telephone lines.

Emeralds (Family Corduliidae)

The present range of Hine’s Emerald (HEs) is limited to specialized habitats in Michigan, Missouri, Illinois and Wisconsin, but historically the species also flew in Indiana and Ohio. The UWM Field Station sits roughly midway between the northern Illinois and Door County, WI populations. HEs continue to show up near the Bog, sometimes, regrettably, as road kills. They are listed as a Federally Endangered species.

Dragonfly 2

The word Dragonfly is probably taken equally from mythical dragons and from the Greek dragon, drakos—the dragon of fly, which had a “terrible eye” (Dragonflies seem to be all compound eye.) Both immature and adult dragonflies are voracious carnivores. Nymphs spend their allotted days, scarfing down anything that’s smaller and slower-moving than they are; they’ll even take tadpoles and fish.

Dragonflies (Family Libellulidae)

The three dragonflies included here, Eastern/Common Pondhawks, Eastern Amberwing, and Chalk-fronted Corporals, are all in the Skimmer family, Libellulidae. Despite the fact that the young are aquatic and the adults are not, and the young (naiads) look different than the adults, they are considered to have simple or incomplete metamorphosis.