Meadowhawk dragonfly

2010 March 6

We caught this medium-sized orange dragonfly with an insect net in the unmowed part of the yard last summer. I put it into one of our collapsable insect cages for photographing, and it was mostly fairly willing to stay still and be photographed once it figured out that it couldn’t just fly off.

It tended to perch with the wings swept down and a bit forward

I ended up photographing its face through the transparent window in the side of the insect cage, so there is some distortion from the plastic sheet, but we can still see that the eyes grow together over the top of the head rather than being distinct, and that the eyes are orange on top, but green on the sides.

The orange body, the small dark patches on the front edge of the wings, and the way it rests makes me think it is one of the “Meadowhawks” in the genus Sympetrum. Other than it being one of the “orange” ones, that’s probably as far as I can go: it’s evidently difficult to sort them out down to the species level just from photographs.

Anyway, I see a fair number of these every year. The name “meadowhawk” comes from the fact that, unlike a lot of other dragonflies, they are willing to get quite a distance away from the body of water that they grew up in, and are commonly found cruising for prey in grassy open areas. Areas like much of our back yard. Since they are mainly there to eat flies, I approve of this. They eventually have to go and seek out bodies of water to lay their eggs, since like other dragonflies they have aquatic nymphs. But, in an area like this, finding an appropriate body of water is pretty easy. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere in Michigan that was more than about a mile from some sort of stream, pond, lake, river, or other suitable dragonfly habitat[1], and these insects fly fast enough and straight enough that they could cover a mile in just a few minutes.

[1] According to the Michigan State Facts page,
-Michigan has more than 11,000 inland lakes and more than 36,000 miles of streams
-You are never more than six miles from one of them.
-Anywhere in Michigan, you are within 85 miles of one of the Great Lakes.
So all around, it is pretty much ideal for aquatic and semi-aquatic insects. Which is why Urban Dragon Hunters is able to get such a variety of dragonflies and damselflies in southeastern Michigan.

4 Responses
  1. March 6, 2010

    > Michigan has more than 11,000 inland lakes

    Well, that’s weird. If we’ve got 11,000 in Michigan, then why does Minnesota make such a big deal about being “the land of 10,000 lakes”?

    (Cute dragonfly, too. Or rather, it’d be cute if it wasn’t so predatory. Instead, I’ll just call it macho. )

  2. March 6, 2010

    Your tags for this post were the first part of the page that loaded.

    “found in backyard, orange, predatory”


    oh. not a tiger.

  3. March 7, 2010

    Andy: I’ve wondered that about Minnesota, too. They don’t seem to be unusually “lakey” in the maps I’ve seen, at least not in comparison with Michigan, Wisconsin, or Manitoba. I figure that they are comparing themselves to Iowa and the Dakotas. Or, maybe their comparative lack of trees just makes it easier for casual travellers to see all their lakes.

    Joy: Nope, no tigers. Although, Siberian tigers could probably survive just fine around here if anyone was sufficiently unwise to import them . . . And, I suppose that a dragonfly would be just as bad as a tiger if I were, say, less than an inch tall.

  4. March 7, 2010

    >And, I suppose that a dragonfly would be just as bad as a tiger if I were, say, less than an inch tall.

    It could happen.

    …look out, Tim!

    Look out, Tim!

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