Two Odonates

Sometimes, you just get lucky.

The two species of Odonata pictured here are not often seen in or around our wetland. One prefers stream habitat, the other ponds and lakes near meadows or weedy fields.

The green-bodied damselfly with black wings is an ebony jewelwing. They’re more likely to be seen along a wooded stream than the shores of our wetland. Perhaps it wandered over from Ellerbe Creek which flows through the west side of the museum property. They are, in fact, sometimes found away from their preferred stream habitat.

Male ebony jewelwing.

The jewelwing in the photos is a male. Females have a white stigma near the tip of each of their wings. The male has a black stigma on each wing which can’t be seen against the black of the rest of the wing.

All damselflies (and dragonflies) have stigmas on their wings. A Stigma (pterostigma) is a large, thick cell on the leading edge of the wing near the tip which helps stabilize the wing while the dragonfly or damselfly is in flight. It holds down vibration allowing increased speed during gliding flight. In many species the stigma is pigmented, in others, it’s clear. Each wing has a stigma.

Arrows point to stigmas on halloween pennant.

Halloween pennants can sometimes be seen in our wetland but prefer ponds and lakes adjacent to weedy fields where they perch atop grass and weed stems waiting for the breeze to carry airborne food their way. The two pictured (below) are males. Freshly emerged males are yellowish, like females, and will acquire the red/orange color of the mature male (below) within hours of emerging.

Mature male halloween pennant.

What’s the difference between dragonflies and damselflies? Damselflies typically hold their wings folded over their abdomens while at rest. There are exceptions (spreadwing damsels) but in general damselflies fold all four wings over their abdomens when perched. They have a thinner abdomen and less robust body. Their eyes are situated at either end of their small but proportionately wider heads, picture a hammerhead shark.

Dragonflies usually hold their wings out to their sides when perched. The male halloween pennant in the photo (above) is perched atop a weed stem and is flapping in the breeze like a pennant, pushing the wings up somewhat. The immature male (below) is displaying a more typical dragonfly perch attitude with wings out to the side. Note also, the red stigmas of the mature male. Dragonfly eyes are more massive than damselfly eyes and often touch at the top of their, likewise, more massive head, though some species do not.

Immature male halloween pennant to show lateral wing placement and wing size difference, front and back.

One more difference between dragonflies and damselflies, damselflies belong to the suborder Zygoptera (equal wings). Both the fore and hindwing are the same shape and size, or nearly so. Dragonflies belong to the suborder Anisoptera (unequal wings). Notice that the hindwings in the dragonflies shown here are broader than the forewings.

Both of these odonate species were seen in or around our wetland.

Yep, sometimes you just get lucky.

2 responses to Two Odonates

  1. Avatar
    Lew says:

    I should be able to find Halloween Pennants in my backyard with your description for habitat. I’m going to look this evening!

    • gregdodge
      gregdodge says:

      If you have tall weeds growing nearby, I’d be willing to bet you have more than a few halloween pennants. I’d check along the edge of the pond.

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