Great Spreadwing damselflies (males, gymnasts)

The following photos show a Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis) spotted on 08 October 2015, two days after the first Great Spreadwing was observed at a small permanent pond in a remote location at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). This individual is a male, nicknamed “Mr. Magoo” because of the prominent dark spots in his eyes.

A Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, nicknamed "Mr. Magoo."

08 OCT 2015 | HMP | Great Spreadwing (male, nicknamed “Mr. Magoo”)

I’m not sure what “Mr. Magoo” was doing in the preceding photo. A novice odonate hunter might be fooled into thinking the damselfly is a female, ovipositing in the grass stem (endophytic oviposition). I speculate the young male was “test-driving” his terminal appendages, with the grass stem serving as a simulation of the neck of a female.

A Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, nicknamed "Mr. Magoo."

08 OCT 2015 | HMP | Great Spreadwing (male, nicknamed “Mr. Magoo”)

After two seasons of field observation of Great Spreadwing damselflies, I have noticed several males flexing their abdomen like gymnasts. Are they simply stretching, or is this behavior related to a pre-/post-mating ritual? It’s impossible to know for certain, but I’m sure it’s amusing to watch! In particular, notice the unusual “two-step dance” performed by the male featured in the following video.

04 NOV 2015 | HMP | Great Spreadwing (male)

I’m a fairly accomplished photographer, he said, not too modestly. In contrast, my skills as a videographer are relatively rudimentary as evidenced by the preceding video. My movies usually turn out better when I plan the shoot and use a tripod; in this case, the video clips were shot spontaneously (therefore hand-held) when an opportunity presented itself.

One of my mantras of wildlife photography/videography is “get a shot, any shot; refine the shot.” I wish the preceding video had turned out better. Although I was able to shoot a couple of video clips of this unusual gymnastic routine, there was no opportunity to refine the shots. Oh well, maybe next year!

Related Resources:

Editor’s Note: According to Ed Lam, author and illustrator of Damselflies of the Northeast, the damselfly featured in the video is grooming itself.

He appears to be grooming in the video. They can’t reach down to knock off debris, spiderwebs, etc. but they can rub their legs together or against an object. Similarly, the abdomen seems to be contacting the wings. Sometimes you see this behavior after they have been handled and released if they don’t immediately fly away. Source Credit: Ed Lam, Northeast Odonata Facebook group.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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5 Responses to “Great Spreadwing damselflies (males, gymnasts)”

  1. Mike Powell Says:

    Don’t be so hard on yourself, Walter. That is an amazing video of some unusual activity. This guy obviously wanted to be ready when the moment presented itself. (I think I’m starting to sound like a commercial for Cialis.)

    • waltersanford Says:

      Thanks for the words of encouragement, Mike! If you watch the video in full-screen mode, then you’ll notice the subject goes in and out of focus as either the vegetation moved in the breeze or as I moved back and forth. Annoying!

  2. Fran Stiteler Says:

    Walter, thanks for the post. I have seen many different damsels do the same stretching bending movements including all the Spreadwings or at least the 5 species I am familiar with. I am curious about the habitat. You speak of a small pond. I have yet to find a great Spreadwing though they presumably have been seen in adjacent counties. The books say slow moving streams. I would really appreciate more detail of the habitat and behavior. Are they flying high low? Morning afternoon? Are you finding them perched? how High? or are you seeing them fitting back and forth? Maybe too many questions but I really am curious and looking for leads on to be looking for.
    In the last week I have had .more than a dozen mating pairs of Southerns which I am closly watching hoping for a Carolina. Also a few Slender and Swamp are still present. We haven’t had a sunny day in literally weeks. I thank you in advance for any info you can share.

    Gratefully Francis Michael
    Rockdale CO GA

  3. Great Spreadwing damselfly (male, grooming) | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] Resource: Great Spreadwing damselflies (males, gymnasts) is a blog post by Walter Sanford that includes an embedded video showing similar grooming […]

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