Monday, January 23, 2017

Species Spotlight: Autumn Meadowhawk

Next up in our series of Species Spotlights is the Autumn Meadowhawk, the friendliest dragonfly in our area. It is also the subject of a delightful haiku:

Red dragonfly on my shoulder
calls me his friend.
Autumn has arrived.

In general, if a red dragonfly lands on you – especially in the Fall – you can be pretty sure it's an Autumn Meadowhawk.

Here's a photo of a female Autumn Meadowhawk:

She seems to be busy eating something she caught on the wing.  Also, note her yellow legs.  Formerly, this dragonfly was known as the Yellow-legged Meadowhawk, but the legs turn dark with age, and so the name was changed to Autumn Meadowhawk to recognize their late-flying proclivity.

That this individual is a female is clear by the lack of hamules on the underside of the second segment of the abdomen.  This is indicated in the photo below:

You can also see the prominent "egg scoop" near the tip of the abdomen.  The female dips the tip of her abdomen into the water, and collects a droplet of water that is held in place by the scoop – almost like a scoop of ice cream held in place by a cone.  She then lays eggs into the droplet, and finally slams into the shoreline vegetation to dislodge the droplet.  Another view of the egg scoop is shown below:

Here's an illustration of the egg-laying process:

Here are a few photos showing how easy it is to interact with Autumn Meadowhawks:

This is a wonderful dragonfly. I hope you can find them in your area.

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