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Lyre-tipped Spreadwing

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Lestes unguiculatus

Hagen, 1861

Order Odonata
Suborder Zygoptera
Superfamily Lestoidea
Family Lestidae
Genus Lestes
Species unguiculatus Hagen, 1861 [Lestes]


This chiefly northern species is found commonly throughout the United States and southern Canada. The head of the male is black with metallic copper or green luster that is generally obscured with age. The middorsal and antealar carinae are pale. There is a thin pale yellow or green antehumeral stripe extending 2/3-4/5 the length of the humeral suture. The mesepimeron is mostly black. The yellow or pale green metepisternum is divided into an anterior spot and a posterior stripe by a black diagonal stripe. The metepimeron is pale in young individuals, darkening with age. Distinct black lines are present on the outside of the femora and tibiae. The abdomen is relatively short among the spreadwings and is dark metallic green dorsally and pale yellow or blue ventrolaterally. The dark ventrolateral markings are faint on segments 5 and 6, becoming more pronounced posteriorly. The tip of the abdomen becomes pruinose with age. The general color pattern of the female is similar to the male only paler throughout. The pale yellow antehumeral stripe extends the full-length of the humeral suture. There are dark triangular markings on the posterodorsal corners of the metepisternum on the otherwise pale metathorax. The color pattern of the abdomen is similar to males, but the tip doesn't become pruinose. There is a distinct posterolateral tooth present on the basal plate of the ovipositor.


Total length: 31-44 mm; abdomen: 25-35 mm; hindwing: 17-24 mm

Similar Species

Chalky Spreadwing (L. sigma ) is more southerly distributed and has a pair of dark marks ventrally on the thorax, posterior to the hind legs. The abdomen of Common Spreadwing (L. disjunctus ) is not metallic green.


Open pools, ponds, sloughs and slow reaches of streams.


This species is scarce within the region, barely entering the northern limits. Tinkham (1934 ) reported three females from the Davis Mountains in west Texas and Albright (1952 ) listed the species as a "record furnished by a letter from A.H. Ferguson" in an unpublished thesis of the Odonata surrounding San Antonio. The only verifiable records of Lyre-tipped Spreadwing in Texas are from Caprock Canyons State Park, Briscoe County, Texas. In one study it was noted that unpaired males shift perch sites for no detectable reason about once every minute. Males infrequently wing-warned as they flew towards intruders, but a lack of aggressiveness resulted in loss of territory. Mating occurred in the early afternoon, between 1:30 and 3:00 and involved no courtship or display signals. Mating lasted an average of 25 minutes, but was never a continuous process; each pair momentarily breaking contact. Egg laying generally occurs in tandem, but may occur alone, and lasts an average of 1.5 hours. Pairs generally oviposited in vegetation, 10-12" above the water surface, as is typical in pond spreadwings. Females, however, may submerge themselves underwater for short periods .


West Virginia north to Nova Scotia west to Pacific Northwest and British Columbia, south to Oklahoma and Texas.