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Twelve-spotted Skimmer



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Libellula pulchella

Drury, 1773


Order Odonata
Suborder Anisoptera
Superfamily Libelluloidea
Family Libellulidae
Genus Libellula
Species pulchella Drury, 1773 [Libellula]
Syn Libellula versicolor Fabricius, 1775
Syn Libellula confusa Uhler, 1857


Identification

This is a large, handsome, brown skimmer found in all 48 contiguous United States. Its distinct wing pattern of dark brown or black wing spots, basally, at the nodus and at the wingtips, will readily distinguish it from most dragonflies in the region. The face is dull yellowish-brown. The thorax is brown and lacks a middorsal stripe; laterally there are a pair of pale yellowish-stripes. The wings are spotted with dark brown or black bands as mentioned above. The mature males develops two white spots in each forewing and three in each hindwing, resulting in their traditional common name the "ten spot." It has more recently been given the name "twelve spot" to represent the more conspicuous brown spots of each wing. The legs are brown at their extreme bases and black beyond. The abdomen is brown with a broad pale yellow uninterrupted stripe on each side and a narrower one along the middorsal carina. The caudal appendages are brown, darkening with age. Females have a slight lateral exp ansion of abdominal segment 8.

Size

Total length: 51-58 mm; abdomen: 32-36 mm; hindwing: 42-48 mm.

Similar Species

Eight-spotted Skimmer (L. forensis ) lacks dark wingtips. Female Common Whitetails (Plathemis lydia ) are smaller, have pale legs and a white zigzag lateral abdominal stripe. Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps ) has green eyes, a long slender abdomen and lacks thoracic and abdominal stripes.

Habitat

Shallow ponds, lakes, marshes and slow streams.

Discussion

Twelve-spotted Skimmers tend to prefer open pond and lake shores well exposed to sunlight. It is an aggressive, strong flier entering into numerous skirmishes with other males and intruders, rarely being displaced, which often makes it difficult to catch. Territories are established in areas over the water that are free of surface vegetation. Mature males seldom perch, but when they do, they can be found on top of tall grasses and bushes surrounding the water. The female deposits eggs along the shoreline of shoals and bays by regularly tapping her abdomen to the water surface, unattended by the male. The similar Eight-spotted Skimmer is almost always found alongside Twelve-spotted Skimmer where their ranges overlap. References: Fitzhugh and Marden (1997), Marden (1995), Pezalla (1979).

Distribution

Throughout U.S. and southern Canada.