Libellula luctuosa (widow skimmer)

Libellula luctuosa, female

If you've spent some time near a body of water in the Midwest, you've probably seen the widow skimmer, Libellula luctuosa, buzzing around near the shoreline and over the water. The territorial males fight and defend their areas; the females bob over the water rythmically.

The widow skimmer is a large dragonfly easily recognized by the fact that no other dragonfly in the Midwest has the widow skimmer's large, brown to black bands extending from the bases of the wings to roughly the halfway point.

Females and young males have dark brown to nearly black bodies with a yellow stripe that starts behind the eyes, then splits, right behind the wings, resulting in a yellow stripe on each side of the body.

As males mature, white bands develop on the wings, outside the darker band. Additionally, the head blackens and the body changes to a pale, glaucous blue.

In females the body remains more or less the same, while the wings do not develop a white band but do sometimes develop brown tips.

In both sexes the legs are black, and each wing has a small black section on the leading edge, near the tip.

Range of Libellula luctuosa

midwestern range

Libellula luctuosa, female
young male


Libellula luctuosa, male
mature male

Libellula luctuosa, female

References: Bland & Jaques 1978, Milne & Milne 1980, Odonata Central 2017.

Kuo, Michael & Melissa Kuo (July, 2017). Libellula luctuosa (widow skimmer). Retrieved from the midwestnaturalist.com website: www.midwestnaturalist.com/libellula_luctuosa.html

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