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Cardinal Meadowhawk

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Sympetrum illotum

Hagen, 1861

Order Odonata
Suborder Anisoptera
Superfamily Libelluloidea
Family Libellulidae
Genus Sympetrum
Species illotum (Hagen, 1861) [Diplax]


The face is pale brown but becomes bright red in front and on top in mature males. The thorax is brown with two oblique, abbreviated or interrupted, white spots laterally. In mature adults only the rounded lower end of these spots remain conspicuous. The wings are diffused with yellow out to the level of the nodus and there are one or two darker brown streaks extending at least to the first antenodal crossvein in the subcostal and or cubital areas of the wings. The legs are reddish brown. The abdomen is dark brownish red and parallel-sided for most of its length. The caudal appendages red. The subgenital plate of the female is emarginate and extends beyond the posterior margin of segment 8 by half the length of that segment.


Total length: 36-40 mm; abdomen: 23-26 mm; hindwing: 26-29 mm.

Similar Species

Variegated Meadowhawk (S. corruptum ) has a black and white pattern on the abdomen. Striped Meadowhawk (S. pallipes ) has distinct stripes rather than spots laterally on the thorax. Both of these species lack amber in the wings.


Small ponds and slow streams.


This species and Variegated Meadowhawk are the only two species in the region that belong to the more robust bodied Tarnetrum group. Within our region this species occurs in southern New Mexico and west Texas. It perches on the tips of twigs, grasses and other vegetation with its wings depressed below the abdomen. Mating initiates in flight or on a twig or branch and requires 30 sec. The male then generally accompanies the female as she lays eggs by making numerous dips to the surface with the abdomen.


Western U.S., West Indies and Central America south to Chile and Argentina.