Great Spreadwing (mating pairs, in tandem)

Every year I set goals for odonate hunting. One goal for 2015: spot and photograph a female Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis). Although I never saw a solo female, I was fortunate to photograph several mating pairs at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP).

After copulation, Great Spreadwings engage in a form of guarding behavior known as “contact guarding,” in which the male and female fly “in tandem” to egg-laying sites. Contact guarding is used by some species of odonates to prevent aggressive males from hijacking the female.

A mating pair of Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is in tandem.

11 OCT 2015 | HMP | Great Spreadwing (mating pair, in tandem)

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

Look closely at the tip of the female’s abdomen. Notice several anatomical structures: two cerci (sing. cercus), superior appendages that have little or no function; two styli (sing. stylus), structures that serve as sensors (like “curb feelers“) in egg positioning during oviposition; and an ovipositor that is used to insert eggs into vegetation (endophytic oviposition).

A mating pair of Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is in tandem; the female is shown ovipositing.

21 OCT 2015 | HMP | Great Spreadwing (mating pair, in tandem)

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

The female is ovipositing in two similar-looking photos, shown above and below. Look closely at the full-size version of both photos: the preceding photo shows the ovipositor hasn’t penetrated the vegetation; the following photo shows the ovipositor has been inserted in the plant stem.

A mating pair of Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is in tandem; the female is shown ovipositing.

21 OCT 2015 | HMP | Great Spreadwing (mating pair, in tandem)

The male guided the female around-and-around a small vernal pool for at least 30 minutes, with brief stops for egg-laying at selected sites. The last photo shows the same mating pair taking a rest break. Notice the mud on the female’s wings and abdomen.

Ooooh, I need a dirty woman. Ooooh, I need a dirty girl. Source Credit: Young Lust, by Pink Floyd.

A mating pair of Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is in tandem.

21 OCT 2015 | HMP | Great Spreadwing (mating pair, in tandem)

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

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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One Response to “Great Spreadwing (mating pairs, in tandem)”

  1. Great Spreadwing (female terminal appendages) | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] Great Spreadwing (mating pairs, in tandem) […]

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