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Eastern Amberwing

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Perithemis tenera

Say, 1839

Order Odonata
Suborder Anisoptera
Superfamily Libelluloidea
Family Libellulidae
Genus Perithemis
Species tenera (Say, 1839) [Libellula]


This is a small species with a brown thorax. There are two wide greenish stripes laterally and middorsally on the thorax. Males have orange or amber wings that usually develop a brown spot above the triangles. Females have variously shaped brown spots or stripes through the amber areas. Both sexes have red pterostigmata. The abdomen is narrowed basally, but thick thereafter and brown with a dark row of chevrons dorsally.


Total length: 19-25 mm; abdomen: 12-16 mm; hindwing: 16-21 mm.

Similar Species

Slough Amberwing (P. domitia ) has dark brown stripes, not chevrons, dorsally on the abdomen. Other skimmers with amber in wings are significantly larger.


Open sloughs, ponds, pools, roadside ditches and other still waters.


This small dragonfly has been well studied. It has an elaborate courtship behavior. Males come to the water's edge early in the morning in search of a territory. They then patrol and defend these territories, as potential egg laying sites, where they regularly perch on emergent sticks or twigs. These small territories, less than 5 square m, are only accepted by the male if he is not disturbed and there is no competition from other males. Females appear and are courted by the male. He will fly out to her and lead her back to his prospective oviposition site, hovering with his abdomen turned up. Upon acceptance by the female, signaled by a slower wing beat, the pair perch on a twig and mate, taking 20-30 sec. Females then la y eggs either accompanied by the male or alone and guarded. Females tap the abdomen against sticks or twigs within the oviposition area, attaching to it a gelatinous mass just above the waterline. The clumps of eggs released into water seem to explode into individual eggs as the clump drifts downward through the water. Both sexes of this group mimic wasps by perching at the ends of grasses or weeds and, while beating their wings, pump the abdomen up and down. Females also fly with the hindwings held together vertically with the abdomen bent up. Females with more darkly pigmented wings tend to select the more favorable oviposition sites such as logs or sticks, and the lighter pigmented females select less favorable patches of floating vegetation. Andromorphic females, with diffusely amber wings, are occasionally reported. One study found that males that were prevented from mating were much more likely to change potential oviposition sites the following day than males that were allowed t o mate, possibly implying that males use their reproductive success to determine the quality of oviposition sites.


Eastern and Central U.S., southeastern Canada and Mexico.