Posts Tagged ‘in wheel’

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pairs)

November 4, 2017

This blog post features more photos taken using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens, and a Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube. The camera was set for manual focus in order to use focus peaking; back-button focusing was used to focus automatically.

In wheel

ISO 640 | 200mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/11 | 1/500s | 0.33 ev

Two of many mating pairs of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were photographed on 27 October 2017 at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Both pairs are “in wheel“: the male is on top; the female is on the bottom.

ISO 800 | 200mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/18 | 1/500s | 0 ev

In tandem

The last mating pair is “in tandem“: the male is on the upper-right; the female is on the lower-left.

ISO 800 | 200mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/16 | 1/500s | 0 ev

After copulation, Autumn Meadowhawks 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.

Related Resource: Adding an 11mm extension tube, a blog post by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Quick and dirty macro photos (Part 2)

October 29, 2017

A mating pair of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) was spotted on 25 October 2017 during a photowalk along the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is “in wheel.” The female is the primary subject; the tip of the male’s red abdomen is the secondary subject.

The first photo is my favorite in the set.

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/4.1 | 1/800s | -1 ev

All odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back. Notice the small black “rivets” around the joint between segments seven and eight (S7, S8) of the male’s abdomen. Does anyone know the function of these structures?

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/4.1 | 1/800s | -1 ev

Each compound eye has approximately 30,000 ommatidia!

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/4.1 | 1/800s | -1 ev

Tech Tips

The photographs in this gallery were taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital camera set for ~12x zoom, Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter, and Canon 580EX Speedlite external flash (manual mode). The close-up filter screws onto the front of the camera lens using a 52-43mm step-down ring.

I estimate the “working distance” between the camera and subject was approximately three-to-six inches (~3-6″). I attempted to photograph several mating pairs of Autumn Meadowhawks; this is the only pair that allowed me to get close enough to shoot some macro photos.

Related Resource: Quick and dirty macro photos (Part 1), a blog post by Walter Sanford featuring photos of male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Time to mate (Fall 2017)

October 11, 2017

I speculate Blue-faced Meadowhawk is an arboreal species of dragonfly that returns to the ground/water when it’s time to mate.

A mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) was spotted near a drainage ditch alongside a vernal pool at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is “in wheel“: the male is on top; the female on the bottom. The female is a heteromorph, as indicated by her tan coloration.

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.

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.

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.


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