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Red Saddlebags (Tramea onusta)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Red Saddlebags

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Fiery red patches on the back wings on a fast-flying Red Saddlebags are matched in tone by the red-streaked tail.

Updated: 07/09/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Skimmers are members of a group of dragonflies that is commonly found across the continent and some come in a bright array of color. Red Saddlebags skimmers are a fine example of this. They have round, bright red patches of color on transparent wings. The placement and shape of these patches resemble the saddlebags carried by horses or mules. Males have a red body and abdomen while females have an orange-brown body. Males are territorial and fly the perimeter of their territory to protect boundaries from infringement.

Like most skimmers, this species circulates near slow-moving water: ponds, creeks, small streams, lagoons, and lakes. Females lay fertilized eggs in the water. The offspring look very different from their adult form and are called naiads. These young skimmers live in the water and eat insects and other aquatic animals until they are ready to molt into their winged adult form. Adults are most active from late spring to mid-autumn. Warmer climates experience longer spans of activity than colder ones.

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


Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Odonata
        Family: Libellulidae
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          Genus: Tramea
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            Species: onusta
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Tramea onusta
Other Name(s): Red-Mantled Saddlebags
Category: Dragonfly or Damselfly
Size (Adult; Length): 39mm to 46mm (1.53" to 1.81")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: red, brown, black
Descriptors: fire, spots, ruby, garnet, patches, fast, flying

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 39mm (1.5in) and 46mm (1.8in)
Lo: 39mm
Md: 42.5mm
Hi: 46mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Red Saddlebags 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 Red Saddlebags. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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