Posts Tagged ‘Pantala hymenaea’

Tramea carolina exuvia

January 22, 2020

I’m a man on a mission to demystify identification of odonate exuviae, as I’m fond of saying. Easier said than done. In my experience, the process of identification can be challenging at best and impossible at worst.

For example, it’s nearly impossible to differentiate exuviae from the Genus Tramea (Saddlebags) to the species level.

The search for reliable larval characters to distinguish species of Tramea has generated considerable confusion in the literature. Source Credit: Landwer, Brett & Sites, Robert. (2006). Diagnostic efficacy of morphological characters of larval Tramea lacerata Hagen and Tramea onusta Hagen (Odonata: Libellulidae). Great Lakes Entomologist. 38. 155-163.

More recently, Tennessen cited the preceding research as well as a follow-up article by the same authors in 2010, and wrote…

…specific identification is still problematic. Source Credit: Tennessen, Kenneth. (2019). Dragonfly Nymphs of North America – An Identification Guide. Springer International Publishing. 567.

The fact of the matter is the most reliable way to identify odonate larvae to the species level is to rear them to maturity and emergence, that is, unless you’re fortunate to find a larva emerging in the field. Since an exuvia is essentially a nearly perfect shell of the last instar, it can be used to identify other specimens of the same species by pattern matching.

Rearing an unknown species of larva from genus Tramea

A larva from the Genus Tramea (Saddlebags) was collected by Andy Davidson near Richmond, Virginia USA, and reared to maturity. The following photo shows the adult dragonfly soon after emergence.

Photo used with permission from Andy Davidson.

The image was rotated in order to get a better look at the shape of the “saddlebags” on the rear wings of the dragonfly.

Photo used with permission from Andy Davidson.

The following composite image — created by Ed Lam, author and illustrator of Damselflies of the Northeast — clearly shows the difference in the shape of the saddlebags for Carolina- versus Red Saddlebags. Look closely at the saddlebags in the full-size version of the preceding photo and you can see the pattern perfectly matches the Carolina Saddlebags in Ed’s image, shown below.

Composite image used with permission from Ed Lam.

Look-alikes: Genus Pantala and Genus Tramea

Two genera from the Family Libellulidae (Skimmers) look similar: Genus Pantala (Rainpool Gliders); and Genus Tramea (Saddlebags). If you find an exuvia with long “tail fins,” then it might be a member of one of these two genera.

A Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) exuvia was collected by Andy Davidson near Richmond, Virginia USA.

A Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea carolina) larva was collected by Andy Davidson near Richmond, Virginia USA, and reared to maturity. Andy saved the exuvia after emergence.

The following couplet from Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae, compiled by Ken Soltesz, can be used to differentiate exuvia from Genus Pantala and Genus Tramea.

p. 37, Key to the Genera of the Family Libellulidae
12a – Superior abdominal appendage (epiproct) as long as, or longer than inferiors [paraprocts]. Pantala
12b – Superior abdominal appendage (epiproct) shorter than inferiors [paraprocts]. Tramea

What are the take-aways?

If you find an exuvia from the genus Tramea, then you might be unable to identify it to the species level.

I collected a Tramea sp. exuvia during Fall 2016 from a water retention pond located at a small park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. I keyed out the specimen and identified it as Tramea carolina, in part, because Carolina Saddlebags had been observed in numbers at the same location. Am I certain of the identity? Yes and no. I’m certain the specimen is from genus Tramea; I’m reasonably sure (but not certain) it’s T. carolina. That said, my rationale is fairly good.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – More Pantala hymenaea exuvia

December 18, 2019

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

This specimen is a Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) exuvia. Spot-winged Glider is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers).

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 200 | f/16 | 1/500 s | 0 ev

80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 200 | f/16 | 1/500 s | 0 ev

The Backstory

This specimen was collected (near Richmond, Virginia USA) and identified by Andy Davidson. Andy is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University working on a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens minus the lens hood. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control two off-camera external flash units set for radio slave mode.

  1. Godox TT685C Thinklite Flash for Canon Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a “Vello Bounce Dome (Diffuser) for Canon 580EX II Flash,” was used to light the underside of the translucent white plastic background; the top of the flash unit was ~30 cm from the bottom of the white plastic.
  2. A Godox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode), fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier, was used to light the subject from above.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen the image.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Pantala hymenaea exuvia

December 16, 2019

An odonate exuvia was photographed against a pure white background using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

This specimen is a Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) exuvia. Spot-winged Glider is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers).

Genus Pantala

The genus Pantala includes two species in North America: Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea); and Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens).

Spot-winged Glider and Wandering Glider larvae/exuviae look similar. The lateral spines on abdominal segment nine (S9) are noticeably shorter for P. hymenaea (shown left) than P. flavescens (shown right) — a key field mark that can be used to differentiate the two species.

The Backstory

Both specimens featured in this blog post were collected (near Richmond, Virginia USA) and identified by Andy Davidson. Andy is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University working on a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (female)

July 28, 2016

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) was captured in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

A Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) netted at Saint Louis Catholic School, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

20 JUL 2016 | Fairfax County, VA USA | Spot-winged Glider (female)

An 18″ diameter insect net was used to capture the dragonfly; a small plastic clothespin was used to hold its wings while I shot several photographs of the specimen. The dragonfly was released after a few minutes, unharmed.

A Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) netted at Saint Louis Catholic School, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

20 JUL 2016 | Fairfax County, VA USA | Spot-winged Glider (female)

I prefer the photos of the specimen posed against a clean background such as the blue sky overhead. Compare/contrast the photos featuring a simple- versus more cluttered background. Which do you prefer?

A Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) netted at Saint Louis Catholic School, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

20 JUL 2016 | Fairfax County, VA USA | Spot-winged Glider (female)

A Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) netted at Saint Louis Catholic School, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

20 JUL 2016 | Fairfax County, VA USA | Spot-winged Glider (female)

The last photo is a ventral view that clearly shows this individual is a female.

A Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) netted at Saint Louis Catholic School, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

20 JUL 2016 | Fairfax County, VA USA | Spot-winged Glider (female)

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (female)

July 18, 2016

Spot-winged Glider is one of at least five major species of dragonflies known to be migratory in North America. One field marker most migratory dragonflies have in common: broad hindwings.

The very broad hindwings represent an important adaptation for gliding, … Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 11276-11277). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The following gallery of photographs shows a Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a female.

A Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

15 JUL 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Spot-winged Glider (female)

A Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

15 JUL 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Spot-winged Glider (female)

A Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

15 JUL 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Spot-winged Glider (female)

Related Resources: Digital Dragonflies, presenting high-resolution digital scans of living dragonflies.

  • Genus Pantala | Pantala hymenaea | Spot-winged Glider | male | top view
  • Genus Pantala | Pantala hymenaea | Spot-winged Glider | male | side view
  • Genus Pantala | Pantala hymenaea | Spot-winged Glider | female | top view
  • Genus Pantala | Pantala hymenaea | Spot-winged Glider | female | side view

See interactive three-dimensional (3-D) virtual imagery of the five migratory dragonflies, including Spot-winged Glider, provided by the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Year in review: New finds in 2014 (odonates)

November 20, 2014

In addition to several “New discoveries in 2014,” I spotted several species of odonates in 2014 that were new finds for my “life list,” as well as a few first-time sightings of either a male or female for familiar species of dragonflies.

Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (male)

This is my first confirmed spotting of an Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus lividus).

Ashy- or Lancet Clubtail

02 May 2014 | Meadowood Recreation Area

Common Baskettail dragonfly (male)

This is my first confirmed spotting of a male Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura). I have seen a few females in the past.

Common Baskettail dragonfly (male)

02 May 2014 | Meadowood Recreation Area

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (young male)

This is my first spotting of a Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula axilena).

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (young adult male)

31 May 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Painted Skimmer dragonflies (male, female)

Although I had seen one Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) in the past, these individuals are among the first ones I photographed.

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Male | 06 June 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (female)

Female | 23 May 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Swamp Darner dragonfly (female, oviposition)

I have seen lots of Swamp Darner dragonflies (Epiaeschna heros) in the past, but it’s challenging to identify their gender on the wing. I photographed one perching male on 04 June 2012. The following individual is one of the first confirmed females that I have spotted.

Swamp Darner dragonfly (female, oviposition)

02 June 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (female)

This is the first confirmed female Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) that I have spotted.

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea)

15 July 2014 | Beacon of Groveton

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

This mating pair of Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) is one of the first times I was quick enough to photograph a pair “in wheel.” This image is also among the first photographs taken using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, 55-200mm zoom lens (88-320mm, 35mm equivalent), and Fujifilm Shoe Mount Flash EF-42 in TTL mode.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

20 August 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (male)

I have seen many female Slender Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes rectangularis) in the past, but this is the first male I spotted.

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (male)

28 September 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Shadow Darner dragonfly (male)

Although I have spotted Shadow Darner dragonflies (Aeshna umbrosa) in the past, this is one of the first individuals I photographed.

Shadow Darner dragonfly (male)

24 October 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Related Resources:

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 in a three-part series — a retrospective look at 2014.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Down at The BoG

July 17, 2014

I live in a “luxury apartment” building called The Beacon of Groveton. Many residents of the building refer to the place as “The BoG.” Turns out the nickname is both an acronym as well as a word that describes the habitat accurately — believe me when I tell you there’s a lot of lipstick on this luxurious pig! (Hey, don’t take my word — go to Yelp and search “Beacon of Groveton” for independent verification.)

By now you may be wondering, “Why don’t you move?” Did I mention The BoG is within walking distance of the hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park?

OK, I admit that was a long way to go in order to explain the clever title of this post! I noticed a Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) perching on a red brick sidewalk outside The BoG when I returned home from an errand on 15 July 2014. The dragonfly looked dead; it was alive, albeit motionless. The Spot-winged Glider was still on the sidewalk by the time I returned with a camera; I was able to snap a few shots before it flew away. Down, not out!

The dragonfly’s apparent misfortune was my good fortune. It is uncommon to see the broad-winged skimmers from the genus Pantala perching. Dragonflies are classified as either “fliers” or “perchers,” based upon their feeding habits. Spot-winged Gliders are fliers.

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea)

Spot-winged Glider is one of at least five major species of dragonflies known to be migratory in North America. One field marker most migratory dragonflies have in common: broad hindwings.

The very broad hindwings represent an important adaptation for gliding, … Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 11276-11277). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea)

This individual is a female, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages. Thanks to Ed Lam, author and illustrator of Damselflies of the Northeast, for verifying my tentative identification of the dragonfly’s gender.

Related Resources: Digital Dragonflies, presenting high-resolution digital scans of living dragonflies.

  • Genus Pantala | Pantala hymenaea | Spot-winged Glider | female | top view
  • Genus Pantala | Pantala hymenaea | Spot-winged Glider | female | side view
  • Genus Pantala | Pantala hymenaea | Spot-winged Glider | male | top view
  • Genus Pantala | Pantala hymenaea | Spot-winged Glider | male | side view

See interactive three-dimensional (3-D) virtual imagery of the five migratory dragonflies, including Spot-winged Glider, provided by the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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