- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
She probably eats a lot of mosquitoes.
After all, we just observed National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, June 21-27, didn't we?
We spotted this female widow skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) on Friday morning, June 26 in the Ruth Risdon Storer Garden of the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden. She flashed her steel-blue coloring and her black basal-banded wings as she zig-zagged from one perch to the other, catching and consuming flying insects.
Naturalist-photographer Greg Kareofelas, an associate of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis, identified the gender and confirmed the species. "I think this is a very good year for them," he told us. Last week he and a colleague observed many widow skimmers, both male and female, in West Davis.
"The species name means sorrowful or mournful, perhaps because the wings of both male and female seem to be draped in mourning crepe," according to BugGuide.Net. "Females and immature males have the same brown wing bands as the mature males, but not the whitish areas. Wings usually have a brown tip. A dorsal view of the abdomen shows a brown band at center with a yellow stripe running along each side."
Widow skimmers are found throughout the United States except for the Rocky Mountain region, says BugGuide.Net. Their range also includes southern Ontario and Quebec.
Locally, look for these dragonflies near Putah Creek, which flows through the 100-acre UC Davis Arboretum. These species are most commonly seen in the summer, and what a treat to see.
Mosquitoes might think otherwise, though.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Just as all lady bugs aren't ladies, all widow skimmer dragonflies aren't female.
A mature male Libellula luctuosa, aka “Widow Skimmer," (as identified by Bohart Museum of Entomology associate and dragonfly expert Greg Kareofelas), recently delighted us with a visit to our Vacaville pollinator garden. He perched on a bamboo stake and appeared to be considering his fast-food menu--leafcutter bees, sweat bees, hover flies, mosquitoes. Hmm...decisions, decisions!
Mr. Widow Skimmer was probably not expecting the unexpected--a strong gust of wind flapped his wings over his head! Talk about having bad hair day...
What drew us to him--besides the wind!--was his steel blue coloring and his broad wing bands. Look closely and you can see his three pairs of black legs. They catch prey with their legs and then use their "fangs" to raise it to their mouth.
"The species name means sorrowful or mournful, perhaps because the wings of both male and female seem to be draped in mourning crepe," observes BugGuide.Net. They're "found across most of the United States except the Rocky Mountain region. The range continues southward across the Mexican border. The widow skimmer has been reported from four Canadian provinces: Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia."
How did Kareofelas know it was a mature male, recently mated? Well, when they reproduce, they form a wheel or heart shape (the process of reproduction is known as "in tandem"). Kareofelas saw the marks on the male's abdomen where the female clasped the male.
"Mature male," he said.