Twelve-spotted Skimmer dragonfly (female)

The following photograph shows a Twelve-spotted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula pulchella) spotted along the boardwalk that goes through the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is an adult female, as indicated by its coloration and the terminal appendages at the end of its abdomen.

Twelve-spotted Skimmer dragonfly (adult female)

Female Twelve-spotted Skimmer dragonflies appear very similar to female Common Whitetail dragonflies (Plathemis lydia), such as the one shown below, spotted at Meadowood Recreation Area.

Common Whitetail dragonfly (female)

Although males quite different, female Common Whitetail poses identification problem, as she has same 12 wing spots. In addition to being distinctly smaller, female Whitetail has series of yellowish-whitish spots not contacting edge of each abdominal segment, whereas female Twelve-spotted has continuous parallel yellow stripes on either edge of abdomen. In side view of thorax, female Whitetail has additional yellow dot in front of anterior yellow stripe, lacking in Twelve-spotted. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 9017-9021). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Look closely at the pattern of wing spots for the female Common Whitetail, in particular, the middle spots on each wing. Notice the shape of each middle spot forms a “spike” that points toward the body of the dragonfly. In contrast, the middle wing spots for female Twelve-spotted Skimmer aren’t “spiked.” An excellent blog post by DSA member Jim Johnson, entitled “ID Challenge #3 Answer,” illustrates the difference in the pattern of wing spots for these two species (using proper terminology).

Related Resources: Digital Dragonflies, presenting high-resolution digital scans of living dragonflies.

  • Genus Libellula | Libellula pulchella | Twelve-spotted Skimmer | female | top view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula pulchella | Twelve-spotted Skimmer | female | side view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula lydia [sic] | Common Whitetail | female | top view

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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