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Hyacinth Glider



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Miathyria marcella

Selys in Sagra, 1857


Order Odonata
Suborder Anisoptera
Superfamily Libelluloidea
Family Libellulidae
Genus Miathyria
Species marcella (Selys in Sagra, 1857) [Libellula]


Identification

This beautiful golden brown species is found all along the coastal areas of southern Texas and Louisiana as well as some distance inland. Its face is pale, with the top of the frons becoming metallic violet in older males. The thorax is tawny brown with a pair of oblique cream-colored lateral stripes. These stripes may become obscured with age in males as the thorax progressively becomes darker violet in color, starting anteriorly and between the wings. The wings themselves are clear with light brown or reddish veins and a dark basal band in each hindwing. There are relatively few antenodal crossveins compared to other dragonflies this size, with 7 and 4 in the fore- and hindwings, respectively. The legs are dark brown with paler bases. The abdomen is orange-brown with a black middorsal stripe.

Size

Total length: 35-41 mm; abdomen: 21-27 mm; hindwing: 27-34 mm.

Similar Species

Saddlebag gliders (Tramea ) are similar but all are larger with the black on the abdomen restricted to segments 8-10, and all but Striped Saddlebags (T. calverti ) lack thoracic stripes.

Habitat

Marshy ponds and lakes, including brackish waters, with water hyacinth.

Discussion

This species is found throughout Mexico, Central and South America, but was not reported from the United States until 1950. It has since been reported as far northward as Virginia. Its spread is correlated with the introduction and spread of water hyacinth (Eichhornia ) into this country. Individuals are commonly seen in large feeding swarms away from water, often along roadsides. They are active fliers, rarely resting. However, when at rest they perch vertically on twigs, stems or other vegetation low to the ground, with their abdomens pointed downward (in a similar fashion to the darners). Males patrol territories low over the water, often hovering extensively. Territories in this species are established by display of the orange abdomen by one male to intruding males. Mating occurs in flight. The male may accompany the female as she lays eggs or she may do this alone or guarded by the male. Eggs are deposited at the base of water hyacinth (Eichhornia), water lettuce (Pistia ) and other floating aquatic vegetation by rapid descents from 1-2 m above the water.

Distribution

Southern U.S. from Virginia to Texas; Mexico and West Indies south to Argentina.