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Slaty Skimmer

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Libellula incesta

Hagen, 1861

Order Odonata
Suborder Anisoptera
Superfamily Libelluloidea
Family Libellulidae
Genus Libellula
Species incesta Hagen, 1861 [Libellula]


This species has a tan or brown face that quickly darkens and the top of the head becomes metallic black in both sexes. The front of the thorax is brown, lacking a definite middorsal stripe. The sides of the thorax lack defined l ateral stripes with only a short dark triangular spot below the forewing and the upper part of the third lateral suture is outlined in brown. The wings are clear with dark wingtips and an occasional small dark spot at the nodus. The legs are black with brown only at their extreme bases. The abdomen is slender, yellow and slightly depressed, regularly tapering rearward with the usual dark lateral and middorsal stripes in young individuals. Segment 8 in the female is widened laterally. The thorax and entire abdomen develops a deep steel blue pruinescence in both sexes.


Total length: 45-56 mm; abdomen: 30-36 mm; hindwing: 35-43 mm.

Similar Species

Yellow-sided Skimmer (L. flavida ) generally has amber along the front margin of the wings. Great Blue Skimmer (L. vibrans ) is slightly larger, has a white face, basal wing streaks and a dark spot at the nodus. Bar-winged Skimmer (L. axilena ) has white basally in the hindwing, pruinescence on the thorax, and the abdomen is paler. Gray-waisted Skimmer (Cannaphila insularis ) has a pale face and the bases of the hindwing are distinctly narrowed.


Marshy ponds, lakes and slow flowing forest streams with muck bottoms.


This species may be one of the most common dragonflies at a forest pond or other quiet waters. Like many skimmers, males perch on top of tall grasses and weeds in sun lit areas. Females are seldom seen around water except to mate, which takes an average of 30 seconds, followed by egg laying. Females deposit their eggs alone, but guarded by males. They use their abdomens to throw the eggs, along with water droplets, to the shoreline or to open water. Females are sexually mature and can mate while still showing their pale non-maturated coloration.


Widespread throughout eastern U.S. and Canada.