Types of Dragonflies
Dragonflies and damselflies, insets in the scientific order Odonata, inhabit water areas throughout the United States.
Typically dragonflies (suborder Anisoptera) are larger than damselflies, and their wings lay flat, like an airplane, when they are at rest.
Most damselflies at rest keep their wings closed against their body or a bit above the body. The exception would be spreadwing damselflies.
Aeshnidae - Darners
Cordulegastridae - Spiketails
Gomphidae - Clubtails
Petaluridae - Petaltails
Libellulidae - Skimmers
Macromiidae - Cruisers
Most native dragonfly species have a lengthy documented existence, with the nineteenth century representing the heyday of North American dragonfly identification.
New dragonfly species continue to be recorded, and a changing climate means that some southern species will continue to migrate north to the United States.
Given the potential change in numbers, according to recent research, documents three hundred and forty two (342) different North American dragonfly species. They fit into seven different families, each containing a variety of genera and species.
Over one-third of native dragonfly species, approximately one hundred and ten (110) belong to the family Libellulidae, or skimmers, the ever present dragonflies at local ponds.
Five different species, Vermilion Saddlebags, Striped Saddlebags, Antillean Saddlebags, Black Saddlebags and Red Saddlebags, inhabit South Texas. Finding them and photographing them are two different stories. They are prodigious flyers that rarely rest on branches.
The Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), the first picture in the composite on the right is the widest ranging of all the species. Depending on the season, it can be found throughout most of the continental United States, with the exception of the northern Rocky Mountain area.
The red spots on the inner wings, and red abdomen with black marks almost surrounding the bottom, suggest a male Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina). Pictures two and three show male and female examples.
They are the dominant eastern saddlebags with a red color. However, the Red Saddlebags (Tramea onusta), a western species, shares a territory with the Carolina Saddlebags in some Southeastern areas.
The Red Saddlebags (Tramea onusta), picture three, primarily a western species, also shares a small overlapping territory with the Carolina Saddlebags in some Southeastern areas.
The presence of a clear spot on the saddle patch, along with the small dark spots at the bottom of the abdomen serve as the field identification clues that differentiate it from the Carolina Saddlebags.
The link to the Libellulidae section provides additional pictures and videos of this very diverse family.
Second only to skimmers in diversity, approximately one hundred species of the Clubtail family, Gomphidae, populate North American water ways.
Darners (42) and Emeralds (50) sit in the middle of the number of species category.
On the other end of the spectrum, nine species have been documented for both the Spiketails and Cruisers. Only two native petaltail species are present.
Usually species within families share similar physical characteristics. For example, clubtails receive their nick name due to the widening of the bottom abdominal segments of male species. Emerald dragonflies receive their nick name due to the presence of green eyes.
By picking up on specific characteristics of these parts, it becomes easier to place a dragonfly into a specific family and then species.
The short video provides a close up view of some dragonfly species in their natural settings. The links in the box point to articles exploring species groups according to taxonomic families.
© 2006-2012. Patricia A. Michaels