Posts Tagged ‘adult male’

Banded Pennants (mating pair, in wheel)

August 8, 2017

“In wheel”

A mating pair of Banded Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis fasciata) was spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is “in wheel.”

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennants (mating pair, “in wheel“)

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennants (mating pair, “in wheel“)

“Insex”

In a recent blog post, I mentioned that I used to photowalk the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park frequently. In deference to the many women and children who visit the park, I coined the term “insex” (sounds like “insects” to the uninitiated) as a family-friendly way to alert my fellow odonate hunters/photowalkers that I heard/saw a mating pair of dragonflies.

More often than not, I hear the clatter of wings before I see a mating pair. When I hear that unique sound, “insex” is the code word I use to give people a heads-up to search for the noisy couple.

In this case, the male Banded Pennant made a silky-smooth, soundless hook-up with the female. I had been watching the female oviposit along the shoreline of the pond while a male was hover guarding her. The fact is, I’m not sure whether he was actually hover guarding or an interloper waiting for an opportunity to grab the female. Either way, I was able to shoot just two photos of the mating pair before they flew in wheel to the top of a nearby tree.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-faced Meadowhawks (mating pair)

March 27, 2017

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) was spotted near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). This pair is “in wheel“: the male is on the upper-right; the female on the lower-left.

16 OCT 2016 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

The female is a heteromorph, as indicated by her tan coloration.

16 OCT 2016 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

There were noticeably fewer Blue-faced Meadowhawks at this location than in past years. It’s reassuring to see this pair doing their part to ensure perpetuation of the species.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Slaty Skimmer dragonflies (mating pair)

March 7, 2017

Odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) are aquatic insects that spend most of their life as larvae that live in water; this stage of their life cycle can last from a few months to a few years, depending upon the species. Finally, they emerge from the water and metamorphose into adults in order to reproduce; their offspring return to the water and the cycle begins again.

A mating pair of Slaty Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula incesta) was spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA. This pair is “in wheel”: the male is on the upper-left; the female on the lower-right.

A mating pair of Slaty Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula incesta) spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel."

18 JUN 2016 | OBNWR | Slaty Skimmer (mating pair, “in wheel“)

All dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back: male dragonfly secondary genitalia, called hamules, are located in segments two and three (S2 and S3); female genitalia in segment eight (S8). Dragonflies form the mating wheel in order for their genitalia to connect during copulation.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gomphurus vastus exuvia

February 17, 2017

10s, maybe 100s of adult Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (Gomphurus vastus) were spotted on 16 May 2016 during a photowalk along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Cobra Clubtails were the only species of odonate observed in a period of several hours.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus) spotted at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

No. 1 | 16 MAY 2016 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (adult male)

A single exuvia (shown below) from an unknown species of dragonfly was collected with permission from park staff. If adult Cobra Clubtail dragonflies were common, then the specimen is probably a Cobra Clubtail exuvia, right? Let’s test our hypothesis.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly exuvia (Gomphurus vastus) collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 2 | Cobra Clubtail (Gomphurus vastus) | exuvia (face-head)

A two-step process was used to identify the genus and species of the exuvia.

  1. Determine the family.
  2. Determine the genus and species.

Step 1. Family

First, determine the family of the specimen. For reference, watch the excellent Vimeo video, Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06). Here’s the decision tree used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

  • The specimen has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like). [See Photo No. 3.]
  • Antennae are club-like (not thin and thread-like, as in Aeshnidae). [See Photo No. 3.]
  • Eyes not exceptionally large compared to the size of the head (not large, as in Aeshnidae). [See Photo No. 3.]
A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly exuvia (Gomphurus vastus) collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 3 | Cobra Clubtail (Gomphurus vastus) | exuvia (face-head)

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

Step 2. Genus and species

Gomphidae is the second largest family of dragonflies, so it can be challenging to identify some specimens to the genus and species level.

Characters from two dichotomous keys were used to identify the exuvia, in part, due to confusion caused by the fact that the name for the genus to which Cobra Clubtail belongs was changed recently from Gomphus to Gomphurus. As a result, the workflow for identifying this specimen was a little “jumpier” than usual.

dichotomous key: a key for the identification of organisms based on a series of choices between alternative characters. Source Credit: Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Dichotomous Key 1

Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae, compiled by Ken Soltesz. Cobra Clubtail (Gomphus vastus), p. 15, Key to the species of the genus Gomphurus.

  • 1a – Strongly hooked palpal lobes with few teeth (3-5). Gomphurus group I (2) [See Photo No. 8.]
  • 2a – Length 27-30 mm. (vastus) [See Photo No. 4, below.]
A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly exuvia (Gomphurus vastus) collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 4 | Cobra Clubtail (Gomphurus vastus) | exuvia (dorsal)

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

Dichotomous Key 2

“Gomphus complex” (= Gomphini) – Clubtails, Odonata Nymphs of Michigan.

  • 1b. Middorsal length of Ab9 [S9] less than half its basal width (fig); length of Ab10 [S10] < 0.50x its width (fig) – 6 [See Photo No. 6.]
  • 6b. Lateral spines of Ab9 close to Ab10, markedly longer than those on Ab8 (fig) [S8]; abdomen appears dorsoventrally flattened (fig) – Gomphurus, 8 [See Photo No. 6.]
  • 8b. Apical margin of median lobe of prementum straight or slightly convex (fig) – 9 [See Photo No. 8.]
  • 9a.(8b). End hook of lateral lobe of labium strongly incurved, extending far past apex of the truncate, 3 to 4 lateral teeth next to it (fig) – Gomphurus vastus

No. 5Cobra Clubtail (Gomphurus vastus) | exuvia (posterior)

The preceding photograph shows a wider view of the posterior end of the abdomen. A closer view of the anal pyramid helps to illustrate several of the morphological characters described in Dichotomous Key 2.

No. 6Cobra Clubtail (Gomphurus vastus) | exuvia (anal pyramid)

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

The basal width of abdominal segment nine (S9) was measured in a straight line from edge-to-edge across the abdomen. The same distance would be longer if it were measured along the joint between abdominal segments eight and nine (S8 and S9). Either way the basal width is measured, the middorsal length is less than half of the basal width.

Since the middorsal length of abdominal segment 10 (S10) is clearly less than its basal width, the character wasn’t illustrated in the preceding annotated image.

Looking carefully at the anal pyramid, notice the cerci (sing. cercus) are slightly shorter than the epiproct, and the epiproct is almost as long as the paraprocts.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly exuvia (Gomphurus vastus) collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 7 | Cobra Clubtail (Gomphurus vastus) | exuvia (ventral)

Photo No. 7 shows a wider view of the ventral side of the specimen. Zooming in on the prementum helps to illustrate some of the morphological characters described in Dichotomous Key 2.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly exuvia (Gomphurus vastus) collected at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 8 | Cobra Clubtail (Gomphurus vastus) | exuvia (prementum)

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

Tech Tips:

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the preceding photographs: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus) plus a Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tube; Canon 580EX II external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; Canon 580EX external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; and a Yongnuo YN-622C-TX E-TTL II Wireless Flash Controller for Canon plus a two-pack of Yongnuo YN-622C II E-TTL Wireless Flash Transceivers for Canon.

Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter was used for Photo No. 3, 6, and 8. A Canon Extender EF 1.4x II was used for more magnification in Photo No. 8. Adding the tele-extender results in a 1 f/stop loss of light; additional backlight was added to the scene using a Nissin i40 external flash unit (off-camera, in SF mode).

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to annotate selected images.

The following photograph of another dragonfly exuvia was taken in-situ along the shoreline of the Potomac River using a Panasonic DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera and Canon 580EX Speedlite, my go-to kit for photowalking. There were many exuviae clinging to the concrete retaining wall shown in the photo. Photo No. 1 was taken using the same camera-flash combo.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly exuvia (Gomphurus vastus) photographed in situ at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

No. 9 | 16 MAY 2016 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (exuvia, in situ)

Related Resources:

Editor’s Note: Sincere thanks to Sue Gregoire, Kestrel Haven Migration Observatory, for her kind mentorship. Sue patiently provides guidance regarding the scientific jargon that can make it either challenging (at best) or impossible to understand many dichotomous keys for the identification of odonate larvae/exuviae. Like every good teacher, Sue doesn’t “give me a fish” — she teaches me how to fish. Thanks again, Sue!

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles (mating pair)

February 1, 2017
A mating pair of Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles (Harmonia axyridis) spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

25 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (mating pair)

A mating pair of Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles (Harmonia axyridis) was spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

When I looked closely at the preceding photo during post-processing, I noticed the face of the two beetles is colored/patterned differently. That seemed odd to me — I thought there might be an interspecies breeding thing going on here. Turns out that’s just the way it is.

The different pattern on the pronotum isn’t odd at all. They are Harmonia axyridis, the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, and there are hundreds of different color morphs. Source Credit: Natalie Hernandez, one of many helpful members of the BugGuide Facebook group.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pairs)

January 30, 2017

While we’re doing that mating pairs of insects thing, let’s continue the theme with photos of two mating pairs of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). Both pairs are “in wheel.”

Couple No. 1

The male is on the upper-right; the female on the lower-left. Notice the male dragonfly is using his front legs to groom his eyes and face, while mating. Hey, you want to look good when hooking up!

A mating pair of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel."

13 NOV 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

The photo is cropped slightly in order to remove a few distracting elements near the edges of the photo. In my opinion, nothing says “Autumn Meadowhawk” quite like a photo showing the dragonflies perching on autumn-colored vegetation.

Couple No. 2

The male is on top; the female on the bottom.

A mating pair of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel."

13 NOV 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

The preceding photo is full-frame (4,000 x 3,000 pixels), giving the viewer a sense of how close I was to the dragonflies. This image — showing the dragonflies perching on tree bark — complements the coloration of the Autumn Meadowhawks but doesn’t convey the same sense of the season as the first photo.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Pearl Crescent butterflies (mating pair)

January 28, 2017

A mating pair of Pearl Crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos) was spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

A mating pair of Pearl Crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos) spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

03 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Pearl Crescent (mating pair)

Pearl Crescent is a common species of butterfly that is abundant at many of the wildlife-watching locations I visit. Although I’ve seen many Pearl Crescents, this is the first mating pair I’ve seen/photographed.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Variegated Fritillary butterflies (mating pair)

January 26, 2017

A mating pair of Variegated Fritillary butterflies (Euptoieta claudia) was spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

A mating pair of Variegated Fritillary butterflies (Euptoieta claudia) spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Variegated Fritillary (mating pair)

Notice the contrast in appearance between the dorsal view (shown above) and the ventral view (shown below).

A mating pair of Variegated Fritillary butterflies (Euptoieta claudia) spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Variegated Fritillary (mating pair)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk mating frenzy

December 8, 2016

Old Colchester Park and Preserve (OCPP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA is one of a few places in Northern Virginia where Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) is known to occur. OCPP is located near Mason Neck West Park.

More than ten mating pairs of Blue-faced Meadowhawks were spotted at a small vernal pool in the park; the pool was almost completely dry on the day of my visit.

Andromorph females

Some species of dragonflies, such as Blue-faced Meadowhawk, display sexual dimorphism; females are polymorphic for a smaller subset of those species. Andromorph females are male-like in color; heteromorph females are duller in color than males.

Andromorph female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies, like the ones shown below, are less common than heteromorph females. Andromorphs have a red abdomen with black rings, like male Blue-faced Meadowhawks; unlike males, most female faces are tan and their terminal appendages look different than male appendages.

No. 1

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Old Colchester Park and Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel." The female is an andromorph.

27 SEP 2016 | OCPP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

No. 2

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Old Colchester Park and Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel." The female is an andromorph.

27 SEP 2016 | OCPP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

No. 3

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Old Colchester Park and Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel." The female is an andromorph.

27 SEP 2016 | OCPP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

Heteromorph females

The following photos show heteromorph female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies. Heteromorphs have a tan abdomen with black rings.

No. 4

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Old Colchester Park and Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel." The female is a heteromorph.

27 SEP 2016 | OCPP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

No. 5

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Old Colchester Park and Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel." The female is a heteromorph.

27 SEP 2016 | OCPP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

No. 6

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Old Colchester Park and Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel." The female is a heteromorph.

27 SEP 2016 | OCPP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

No. 7

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Old Colchester Park and Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel." The female is a heteromorph.

27 SEP 2016 | OCPP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

No. 8

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Old Colchester Park and Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel." The female is a heteromorph.

27 SEP 2016 | OCPP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

No. 9

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Old Colchester Park and Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel." The female is a heteromorph.

27 SEP 2016 | OCPP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

No. 10

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Old Colchester Park and Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel." The female is a heteromorph.

27 SEP 2016 | OCPP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Variable Dancer (mating pair, “in heart”)

November 23, 2016

A mating pair of Variable Dancer damselflies (Argia fumipennis violacea) was spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR). This pair is “in heart“: the male is on the upper-left; the female on the lower-right.

A mating pair of Variable Dancer damselflies (Argia fumipennis violacea) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in heart."

14 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Variable Dancer (mating pair, “in heart“)

In the following photo, the male is on top; the female on the bottom.

A mating pair of Variable Dancer damselflies (Argia fumipennis violacea) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in heart."

14 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Variable Dancer (mating pair, “in heart“)

The taxonomic classification of Variable Dancer is as follows: Order Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies); Suborder Zygoptera (Damselflies); Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies); Genus Argia (Dancers); Subspecies Argia fumipennis violacea (Violet Dancer).

Variable Dancer is a habitat generalist that can be found almost anywhere there is water. Mature males are easy to recognize due to their unique coloration — there are no other species of violet damselflies found in the eastern one-third of the United States. Female Variable Dancers, like many female odonates, are more challenging to identify than males.

It’s helpful to get shots of mating pairs of damselflies, especially “in tandem,” since males and females of the same species can look quite different. The excellent high-resolution digital scans by Gayle and Jeanelle Strickland, listed under “Related Resources” (below), provide clear views of male and female Variable Dancer damselflies.

Related Resources: High-resolution digital scans created by Gayle and Jeanelle Strickland.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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