Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly terminal appendages

April 17, 2015

Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) is a member of the Skimmer Family of dragonflies that is commonly spotted during the fall months at many water bodies in the mid-Atlantic United States.

Male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”) and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”).

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30 SEP2014 | Huntley Meadows Park | Autumn Meadowhawk (male)

Female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (female)

11 NOV 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park | Autumn Meadowhawk (female)

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue Dasher dragonfly terminal appendages

April 15, 2015

Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) is a member of the Skimmer Family of dragonflies that is commonly spotted during the summer months at many water bodies in the mid-Atlantic United States.

Blue Dashers display sexual dimorphism; terminal appendages may be used to differentiate immature males from females.

Male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”) and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”).

Blue Dasher dragonfly (male)

24 AUG 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park | Blue Dasher (male)

Female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function.

Blue Dasher dragonfly (female)

29 MAY 2013 | Meadowood Recreation Area | Blue Dasher (female)

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue Dasher dragonflies (mating pair)

April 13, 2015

A mating pair of Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) was spotted along the boardwalk in the central wetland area hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park on 10 September 2014.

The pair is shown “in wheel.” All odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back: male dragonfly secondary genitalia are located in segments two and three (2 and 3); female genitalia in segment eight (8). Therefore, the male dragonfly is on top; the female is on the bottom.

Blue Dasher dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

Male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”) and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”).

Blue Dasher dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Senior sex

April 11, 2015

The following photo shows a couple of high-mileage Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans) still getting it done! The mating pair is “in wheel“: the male is on top; the female is on the bottom.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

04 SEP 2014 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (mating pair)

The final photo shows the female resting immediately after copulation.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (old female, resting after copulation)

04 SEP 2014 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (mature female)

The mature mating pair was spotted at a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). Contrast the appearance of the septuagenarian couple (figuratively speaking) with younger mating pairs, listed in reverse chronological order.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Photo tip: Move closer to the subject.

April 9, 2015

A simple tip for shooting better wildlife photographs: Move closer to the subject. In this case, so close that the entire subject did not fit within the photo frame — better to show the extraordinary beauty of this species of dragonfly!

The following photos show two adult female Swamp Darner dragonflies (Epiaeschna heros) laying eggs (ovipostion) in a muddy drainage ditch located near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP).

Swamp Darner dragonfly (female, oviposition)

02 JUN 2014 | HMP | Swamp Darner (female)

The next photo is my favorite in this set. Wow, look at those eyes!

Swamp Darner dragonfly (female, oviposition)

25 MAY 2014 | HMP | Swamp Darner (female)

Swamp Darner dragonfly (female, oviposition)

25 MAY 2014 | HMP | Swamp Darner (female)

Swamp Darner dragonfly (female, oviposition)

25 MAY 2014 | HMP | Swamp Darner (female)

Swamp Darner dragonfly (female, oviposition)

25 MAY 2014 | HMP | Swamp Darner (female)

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Painted Skimmer dragonflies (males)

April 7, 2015

Sometimes the photos speak for themselves: several male Painted Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula semifasciata) spotted on 23 May 2014 near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park.

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pairs, in wheel)

April 5, 2015

The following photos, showing two mating pairs of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum), were taken at nearby spots along the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

26 SEP 2014 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (Mating Pair 1)

Notice that the individuals in both mating pairs look “fresh,” that is, their coloration is crisp and bright and their wings aren’t tattered. I spotted my first Autumn Meadowhawk of the fall season on 23 September 2014; the mating pairs featured in this post were photographed a few days later.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

26 SEP 2014 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (Mating Pair 2)

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly terminal appendages

April 3, 2015

I spotted an unknown dragonfly on 17 May 2012 and sent the following photo (without annotation) to Matt Ryan for his take on the identity of the dragonfly. Matt and I had taken the same introductory class on dragonflies during Summer 2011 at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). Both of us were eager to learn more about odonates in order to move to the next level of dragonfly spotting.

Matt and I narrowed the field of possible identities to either Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans) or Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta), but we weren’t certain of its gender or age. As I recall, Matt was the first one to mention terminal appendages — a useful field marker that turned out to be one of the key characteristics that enabled us to correctly identify the specimen as an immature male Great Blue Skimmer.

And so it began — my interest in learning more about dragonfly terminal appendages led to lots of new discoveries and remains one of the go-to field markers I look for when identifying dragonflies.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (immature male)

17 MAY 2012 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (immature male)

Immature males appear similar to immature females of the same species (and some mature females) for many types of dragonflies that display sexual dimorphism. This is true for many members of the Skimmer Family of dragonflies, such as Great Blue Skimmer. Terminal appendages may be used to differentiate gender for many species of dragonflies.

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16 AUG 2013 | ABWR | Great Blue Skimmer (mature male)

Male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”) and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”).

Female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (mature female)

12 SEP 2012 | ABWR | Great Blue Skimmer (mature female)

Look closely at the full-size version of the preceding image. Female Great Blue Skimmers have a pair of flanges beneath their eighth abdominal segment that are used to scoop and hold a few drops of water when laying eggs (oviposition), hence the family name “Skimmer.” Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.

Related Resources:

Editor’s Note: Matt Ryan went on to become a professional naturalist who works at Huntley Meadows Park. Matt is an excellent all-around naturalist; botany is Matt’s area of specialization.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue Corporal dragonfly terminal appendages

April 1, 2015

Blue Corporal (Ladona deplanata) is a member of the Skimmer Family of dragonflies that is commonly spotted during the spring months at many water bodies in the mid-Atlantic United States.

Immature males appear similar to immature/mature females of the same species for many types of dragonflies that display sexual dimorphism. This is true for many members of the Skimmer Family of dragonflies, such as Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta), and the following Blue Corporal dragonflies  spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area (MRA).

Immature male and female Blue Corporal dragonflies are nearly identical in appearance except for their terminal appendages — the abdomen of both genders is black and copper in coloration.

Blue Corporal dragonfly (immature male)

01 MAY 2013 | MRA | Blue Corporal (immature male)

Male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”) and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”).

Female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function.

Blue Corporal dragonfly (female)

01 MAY 2013 | MRA | Blue Corporal (immature female)

As male Blue Corporals mature their coloration turns black and dark blue, although some mature males turn a lighter shade of blue.

Blue Corporal dragonfly (male)

02 MAY 2013 | MRA | Blue Corporal (mature male)

Mature females turn shades of light grayish-tan. Although the terminal appendages aren’t shown clearly in the following annotated photo, the image illustrates the change in coloration that occurs as females mature.

Blue Corporal dragonfly (mature female)

09 MAY 2013 | MRA | Blue Corporal (mature female)

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (female)

March 30, 2015
Slender Spreadwing damselfly (female)

06 OCT 2014 | HMP | Slender Spreadwing damselfly (female)

The preceding photograph shows a Slender Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes rectangularis) spotted near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). This individual is a female as indicated by its terminal appendages and the ovipositor located on the underside of the posterior abdomen.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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