Posts Tagged ‘in wheel’

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.

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.

More Big Bluet damselflies

December 24, 2016

More Big Bluet damselflies (Enallagma durum) were spotted in July 2016 during two photowalks along the Potomac River at Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve (DMWP).

More males

These individuals are males, as indicated by their blue and black coloration and by their terminal appendages.

Mating pair

The mating pair of Big Bluet damselflies shown in the following photograph is “in wheel,” in which the male uses “claspers” (terminal appendages) at the end of his abdomen to hold the female by her neck/thorax while they are joined at their abdomens. The male, blue and black in color, is on top; the female, green and black in color, is on the bottom.

The copulatory, or wheel, position is unique to the Odonata, as is the distant separation of the male’s genital opening and copulatory organs. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 377-378). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The wheel position is sometimes referred to as “in heart” when damselflies mate. In this case, the heart shape is deformed slightly.

A mating pair of Big Bluet damselflies (Enallagma durum) spotted at Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in heart."

19 JUL 2016 | DMWP | Big Bluet (mating pair, “in tandem”)

The same pair is “in tandem” a while later: the male is on the right; the female is on the left. The male is engaged in “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 Big Bluet damselflies (Enallagma durum) spotted at Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in tandem."

19 JUL 2016 | DMWP | Big Bluet (mating pair, “in tandem”)

Look closely at the underside of the female’s abdomen, near the tip. Notice the ovipositor that she uses to insert eggs into vegetation (endophytic oviposition).

It’s helpful to take photos of mating pairs of damselflies, especially “in tandem,” since males and females of the same species can look quite different.

Sidebar: Scientific Classification of Damselflies

The following concise explanation of the scientific classification of damselflies is provided to help the reader understand where the genus Enallagma (American Bluets) fits into the bigger picture of the Order OdonataSuborder Zygoptera (Damselflies).

There are five families of damselflies in the United States of America, although only three families occur in the mid-Atlantic USA: Broad-winged damselflies; Narrow-winged damselflies (a.k.a., Pond Damselflies); and Spreadwing damselflies.

Family Calopterygidae is comprised of two genera.

Family Coenagrionidae is comprised of 14 genera. Three genera are common in Northern Virginia: Argia (Dancers); Enallagma (American Bluets); and Ischnura (Forktails).

Family Lestidae is comprised of two genera.

  • Archilestes (e.g., Great Spreadwing)
  • Lestes (e.g., Slender Spreadwing, Southern Spreadwing, Swamp Spreadwing)

There are relatively few genera of Broad-winged Damselflies and Spreadwing Damselflies. In contrast, there are many more genera and species of Narrow-winged Damselflies — more species, including many that look similar, makes this family the most challenging to learn!

Related Resources: Excellent digital scans created by Gayle and Jeanelle Strickland. Click on the button labeled “Download file” in order to view full-size version of the graphics.

  • Enallagma durum male #4 | male | JPG
  • Enallagma durum female #2 | female | JPG

Copyright © 2016 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.

Time to mate

November 13, 2016

In a recent blog post, I wrote…

Both Blue-faced Meadowhawks and Autumn Meadowhawks are classified as fall species of odonates. In the mid-Atlantic United States, meadowhawks seem to disappear for several months after they emerge during early summer and reappear during fall. Where do they go? No one knows for sure. I speculate Blue-faced Meadowhawks and Autumn Meadowhawks are arboreal species of dragonflies that return to the ground/water when it’s time to mateSource Credit: More previews of coming attractions.

Fall is the time to mate for Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum), as you can see in the following photo.

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

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

This mating pair is “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.

Odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) are aquatic insects. Most of their life is spent underwater as a nymph. The life span of a nymph depends upon the species: it’s a few months for some species; a few years for other species. Individual adult odonates — like the ones we see flying around Huntley Meadows Park (HMP) — usually live one- to two months, although many different individuals from the same species may be seen for longer periods of time. Adult odonates have one goal: mate in order to reproduce. When fertilized eggs are laid in water, the circle of life comes full circle: eggs; prolarvae; larvae; emergence/adult males and females; mating pairs; males guide females to egg-laying sites (some species, such as Autumn Meadowhawk) or solo females lay eggs (all other species).

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (mating pair)

October 26, 2016
A mating pair of Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area. Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel." The female is infested with water mites.

21 JUN 2016 | MRA | Eastern Pondhawk (mating pair, “in wheel”)

A mating pair of Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) was spotted along the earthen dam at Hidden PondMeadowood Recreation Area. This pair is “in wheel“: the male is on the upper-right; the female is on the lower-left.

Eastern Pondhawks mate quickly.

Copulation brief (averages 20 sec) and aerial, may be followed by resting period. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Location 10228). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The mating pair was in wheel when they landed. I was able to shoot one photo before they finished copulating!

Look closely at the full-size version of the preceding photo. Notice the female is infested with parasitic water mites on the underside of her abdomen.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Time to mate

September 18, 2016

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) was spotted at a vernal pool in Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). The vernal pool, currently dry, is the same one where teneral Blue-faced Meadowhawks were observed during late-May and early-June 2016.

This mating pair is “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.

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

15 SEP 2016 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawks (mating pair, “in wheel“)

Some species of dragonflies 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.

Notice the female in this mating pair is an andromorph. Female andromorphs are less common than heteromorphs.

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

15 SEP 2016 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawks (mating pair, “in wheel“)

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Banded Pennant dragonflies (mating pair)

July 14, 2016

A mating pair of Banded Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis fasciata) was spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area (MRA). This pair is “in wheel.”

A mating pair of Banded Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis fasciata) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel."

02 JUL 2016 | MRA | Banded Pennant (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.

A mating pair of Banded Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis fasciata) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel."

02 JUL 2016 | MRA | Banded Pennant (mating pair, in wheel)

Therefore, the male is on top; the female is on the bottom.

A mating pair of Banded Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis fasciata) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel."

02 JUL 2016 | MRA | Banded Pennant (mating pair, in wheel)

A mating pair of Banded Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis fasciata) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel."

02 JUL 2016 | MRA | Banded Pennant (mating pair, in wheel)

A mating pair of Banded Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis fasciata) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel."

02 JUL 2016 | MRA | Banded Pennant (mating pair, in wheel)

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawks (mating pairs)

November 7, 2015

The following photos, showing several mating pairs of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum), were taken near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). All pairs are shown in the “mating wheel.”

It’s fairly simple and straightforward to identify the male- and female members of a mating pair of dragonflies. 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.

Mating Pair No. 2

Don’t be confused — the first photo is actually the second mating pair spotted on 15 October 2015.

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

15 OCT 2015 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawks (mating pair, in wheel)

Mating Pair No. 1

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

15 OCT 2015 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawks (mating pair, in wheel)

Another view of the same mating pair…

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

15 OCT 2015 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawks (mating pair, in wheel)

Mating Pair No. 3

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

21 OCT 2015 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawks (mating pair, in wheel)

The last photo should be captioned: “Mating makes me itch!” Actually, the male dragonfly is using its 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 shown in wheel.

21 OCT 2015 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawks (mating pair, in wheel)

Related Resource: Posts tagged “grooming” (see videos).

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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