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Golden-winged Skimmer



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Libellula auripennis

Burmeister, 1839


Order Odonata
Suborder Anisoptera
Superfamily Libelluloidea
Family Libellulidae
Genus Libellula
Species auripennis Burmeister, 1839 [Libellula]
Syn Libellula costalis Rambur, 1842


Identification

This is a relatively large, beautiful, red species found throughout the eastern portions of the region. It is similar to the more coastally distributed Needham's Skimmer (L. needhami). The face is brown in young males and females, becoming bright red in older males. The thorax is brown with 2 diffuse pale stripes laterally. The wings have a yellow pterostigma an d white costal vein. The hind tibiae are reddish-brown. The abdomen is yellow with a black middorsal stripe. The front of the thorax in mature males is rusty red and the pterostigma and abdomen are bright red. The wing veins are reddish-orange throughout.

Size

Total length: 45-58 mm; abdomen: 32-40 mm; hindwing: 35-45 mm.

Similar Species

Needham's Skimmer has black veins over most of its wings, the hind tibiae are bicolored, males have a redder face and body, and the costal vein is bicolored. Young males and female Needham's Skimmers have an unmarked thorax. Young Yellow-sided Skimmers (L. flavida ) have shorter abdomens, their wingtips are dark to the pterostigma, the costa is generally dark out at least to the nodus, and the thorax is more robust with a prominent pale middorsal stripe.

Habitat

Ponds, pools, ditches, lakes and occasionally slow flowing streams.

Discussion

This species is common around open ponds and lakes where males actively defend their territories, but becomes much less common as it approaches coastal waters, where it is replaced by Needham's Skimmer. These two species were long confused with one another and literature records like those of Wright (1943a,b ) published before Westfall's (1943 ) clarification of the two species undoubtedly include a mix of records. Males may be exceedingly wary of intruders, but often return to the top of a favored twig or branch. Females perch high in trees or lower to the ground on vegetation some distance from water. They lack distinct lateral flanges on abdominal segment 8 and therefore lay eggs by dipping the abdomen to the water's surface, usually doing so while guarded by the male. This species is a voracious predator, taking damselflies, horseflies, butterflies and other small insects readily. They are also victims of other predatory insects, however, like robber flies.

Distribution

Eastern U.S. to Texas.