Another new species of spreadwing damselfly?

I’m fairly certain I discovered a new species of damselfly at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP): Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes forcipatus).

A Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes forcipatus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

15 OCT 2015 | HMP | Sweetflag Spreadwing (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by its hamules and terminal appendages.

A Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes forcipatus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

15 OCT 2015 | HMP | Sweetflag Spreadwing (male)

(See a full-size version of the preceding photo, without annotation.)

The hamules are key field markers for differentiating some species of similar-looking damselflies, such as Southern Spreadwing (Lestes australis) and Sweetflag Spreadwing (Lestes forcipatus).

All male damselflies have four terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers.” Male damselfly terminal appendages don’t look exactly the same for all species of damselflies, but their function is identical.

A Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes forcipatus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

15 OCT 2015 | HMP | Sweetflag Spreadwing (male)

(See a full-size version of the preceding photo, without annotation.)

Claspers are used to grab and hold female damselflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”) and a lower pair of paraprocts (“inferior appendages”).

Southern or Sweetflag?

I say Sweetflag; odonate experts may/may not agree with my tentative identification. My logic is fairly straightforward: Adult Southern Spreadwing damselflies were observed at a single location in Huntley Meadows Park during the first two weeks in May 2015. Their sudden disappearance seemed to coincide with a population explosion of Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) in mid-May.

The same location was scouted frequently since May; no Southern Spreadwings were observed all summer. Although it is possible the specimen spotted on 15 October 2015 is a Southern Spreadwing damselfly, I think it is more likely a Sweetflag Spreadwing.

Scrappy’s hard life

I nicknamed this guy “Scrappy” due to a couple of serious injuries he survived. The following photo shows what appears to be a puncture wound in one of Scrappy’s eyes.

A Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes forcipatus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

15 OCT 2015 | HMP | Sweetflag Spreadwing (male)

(See a full-size version of the preceding photo, without annotation.)

Also, did you notice “Scrappy” is missing three of six legs? Survival is probably a struggle although it helps that he still has his two front legs, critical for feeding in flight.

A Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes forcipatus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

15 OCT 2015 | HMP | Sweetflag Spreadwing (male)

He ain’t heavy

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother. Brothers in the Spreadwing Family of damselflies, that is. The last photo shows “Scrappy” perching on top of a male Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis), nicknamed “Mr. Magoo” because of the prominent dark spots in his eyes.

A Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes forcipatus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, perching on top of a male Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis).

“Scrappy” and “Mr. Magoo.”

One of my mantras of wildlife photography is “get a shot, any shot; refine the shot.” I wish the preceding photo — taken from a poor vantage point with a partially obstructed view — had turned out better. Although I was able to get a shot of this unusual pairing, there was no time to refine the shot.

Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for high-quality photos of “Mr. Magoo” and “Bendy Straw,” one of Magoo’s male rivals, to be published in several upcoming blog posts.

Post Update, 17 November 2016: New evidence strongly suggests the male spreadwing damselfly featured in this post is probably a Southern Spreadwing (Lestes australis) from another brood that emerged during Fall 2015. In 2016, Southern Spreadwing was confirmed to be multivoltine at the same location.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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4 Responses to “Another new species of spreadwing damselfly?”

  1. Mike Powell Says:

    Reblogged this on Mike Powell and commented:
    Although it is October, my good friend and fellow photographer Walter Sanford continues to discover new species of damselflies in my favorite marshland park. Check out his posting (and his site) for some awesome images of his newest find.

  2. Southern- or Sweetflag Spreadwing? | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] This individual is a member of the Family Lestidae of damselflies (Spreadwings): it is either a Southern Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes australis) or Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes forcipatus). It is a male, as indicated by its terminal appendages: Southern Spreadwing; Sweetflag Spreadwing. […]

  3. Voltinism | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] thought I had discovered a male Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes forcipatus) on 15 October 2015 at the study site. I made my speculative identification before I knew that Southern Spreadwings can […]

  4. Southern Spreadwing at MNWP | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] 2016. It’s worth noting the late-date for Southern Spreadwing at MNWP is consistent with the late-date of 15 October 2015 for the same species at Huntley Meadows […]

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