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Common Whitetail Skimmer (Libellula lydia)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Common Whitetail Skimmer



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Image Credit: Elizabeth and Desmond L. from London, ON
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Image Credit: Brenda B. from Salt Spring Island, BC
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Image Credit: Arch Baker
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Image Credit: Steve K. from Milwaukee, WI
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Image Credit: Dave R. from Southfield, MI
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Image Credit: Rudy P. taken in Yadkinville, NC
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Image Credit: Gary R., taken in South Burlington, VT
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The Common Whitetail Skimmer is a popular sight in summer, sporting a chalky white tail and an affinity for aerial acrobatics.



Updated: 01/26/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Common White Skimmers are a type of dragonfly. Males develop a white powdery substance on the abdomen called pruinosity. The long abdomen is used to defend territory against intruding males. As a challenger approaches a border, the resident male warns him by raising his white tail at the intruder. Females have a brown abdomen, and are noticeably different in appearance from males. They are more slender, and the black color pattern on their wings almost appears to be the inverse of the male pattern.

Females release their fertilized eggs into the water, near still shorelines, by dipping their abdomen under water several times. Larvae hatch and remain underwater feeding on other small aquatic insects. These naiads (juveniles) can spend months or years feasting and growing. They crawl out of the water and molt into a winged adult and begin their new life on land.

Common Whitetail Skimmers hover over standing or slow water like ponds, creeks, streams, marshes, and lakes. Adults eat small flying insects like mosquitoes and gnats, making them a welcome natural control for pest insect populations. They are active from spring through autumn. While they are dependent on a water source for the completion of their life cycle, adults have been seen in drier areas near wet habitats.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Hairy insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Odonata
        Family: Libellulidae
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          Genus: Libellula
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            Species: lydia
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Libellula lydia
Category: Dragonfly or Damselfly
Size (Adult; Length): 60mm to 75mm (2.36" to 2.95")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; white; black; yellow
Descriptors: hairy, flying, dragonfly, powdery
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Range Between 60mm and 75mm
Lo: 60mm
Md: 67.5mm
Hi: 75mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Common Whitetail Skimmer may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Common Whitetail Skimmer. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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