Orange dragonflies found dying beside road

2015 May 27

I found these two small dragonflies (only about an inch and a half long, about half the length of my little finger) beside the road[1] on August 28, 2014. One was dying (it would only twitch occasionally), and one was already dead.

The dying one was still fairly bright orange-red, while the dead one was becoming distinctly gray.



This change in color after dying is pretty typical for dragonflies, and is one of the things that makes actually collecting specimens so sad. They look a lot more attractive as living specimens than they do pinned in a collection.

The dead one also had its wings swept forward more.



Aside from the color change and the posture, they both appear to be the same species. Although I can’t say for sure what that species is. They are both probably Meadowhawks (genus Sympetrum), a genus of generally similar small dragonflies that can only be reliably distinguished to species by looking at the male abdomen tip under a microscope. Some of the species in this genus have distinctive facial features, but this doesn’t seem to be one of them.

These meadowhawks are some of our most common dragonflies, and we see them around the yard pretty much all summer long.

[1] I find a lot of dragonflies dead or dying on the shoulder of the road. They are mostly undamaged, so I don’t think that they are being killed by cars. I think what happens is that old or sick dragonflies land on the warm asphalt to warm up on cool afternoons, and then once the sun goes down the asphalt cools, and they get cold enough that they never wake up again. And, since I’m pushing my bike up the hill every afternoon, I’m in a good position to spot them.

3 Responses
  1. May 27, 2015

    I wonder if it’s not so much the head-on collision with cars, but being sucked into the tail wind that knocks them out momentarily. Landing on a hot surface like a road will further inhibit their recovery.

  2. Carole permalink
    May 27, 2015

    Thought you might enjoy this video of insects that inhabit homes.

  3. May 28, 2015

    That’s a pretty cool video, it will be interesting to see what they come up with from each of the 7 continents.

    Wait, does that mean they’re going to go to Antarctica to check out the research bases, too?

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