Western Meadowhawk

The other night when Leonard came into the house (Lookout CA) a dragonfly also flew in. It was too late to chase a dragonfly around the house in an attempt to photograph and identify it before releasing it outdoors. So I decided the dragonfly could fly about the house until morning, at which time I would deal with it. Unfortunately I found a dead Western meadowhawk (Sympetrum occidentale) on the kitchen counter in the morning. Darn!

The most distinguishing characteristic of a Western meadowhawk are orangish-colored bands covering the inner portion of each wing. These colored areas are usually darker toward the outside of the wing. Males have a yellowish thorax with wavy black lines and a red to red-brown abdomen with black along the bottom of each side. The eyes are dark orange-red. Females look similar to males except their abdomen is not red, but rather more of an olive or light brown color.

Native to the West, this meadowhawk ranges from British Columbia to California and east to Alberta, Idaho and Utah. They can be found around most ponds and lakes. The life cycle of a dragonfly consists of egg-nymph-adult stages. The adult female lays her eggs by dipping the tip of her abdomen in the water, often with the male still attached after mating. The nymphs eat aquatic insects while the adults feed on any soft-bodied flying insect such as mosquitos, flies, small moths and flying ants.

The genus name, Sympetrun, is Latin for “with rock”. This refers to the meadowhawk habit of perching on rocks during the day to absorb heat and because meadowhawks sit on rocks (or bare branches) while hunting insects.

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