What dragonfly is that? Part 2

August 1, 2011 | Greg Dodge

Included in this, Part 2 of the “What Dragonfly is that?” are two dragonflies that are unmistakable. They are both common at a wide range of ponds, lakes and slow moving rivers. They are the Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia) and the Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera).

This dragonfly with the white pruinosity on its abdomen and wings is a common site throughout our area of North Carolina.

The Common Whitetail (above) can hardly be ignored with its white abdomen and bold wing markings. It is found near water as well as in locations far from water. These conspicuous dragonflies tend to perch close to the ground, often flat on the hiking trail, pavement, or boardwalk here at the Museum.

When whitetails first emerge from the water they lack the white pruinosity* on their abdomen and wings. They are about 1.75″ in length.

This is a male that has yet to acquire the white abdomen. The bold wing markings will darken as well.

The much smaller Eastern Amberwing is only about 7/8″ long, but its bright coloration makes it stand out as it flies forth from a low perch over the water to chase rivals or snatch an airborne snack.

An adult male Eastern Amberwing perched on smartweed in the Wetlands.

Some believe that this tiny skimmer is a wasp mimic. The pattern on the abdomen suggests mimicry.

This amberwing is perched on a seed head along the shore. Notice that this dragon is missing part of its right rear leg.

Both species highlighted here, I’m sure you’ll agree, are unmistakable. Once you know what to look for you could hardly mistake one of these dragons for anything other then what they are, a Common Whitetail and an Eastern Amberwing. But remember, as with the two species covered in part 1, “What dragonfly is that?” the females look much different from the males. But again, get to know the males and you can move on from there.

Review simple dragonfly anatomy.

* Like a grape or plum, some insects develop a whitish bloom which covers their skin or exoskeleton. This pruinosity is most often white, blue, or blue-gray but can be other colors as well.

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