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Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Twelve-spotted Skimmer

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Males of this summertime dragonfly sports a plethora of brown-black and white spots on its glassy wings.

Updated: 01/06/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Twelve-spotted Skimmers are fast and agile. If given time to count, one would see a total of twelve black spots on all four wings of the male - three on each one. Between these black spots sit eight bright white spots that may even appear light blue. White smudges also appear next to the body. The female and immature males have the twelve brown-black spots, but not the white ones, so it is still acceptable to call them all twelve-spotted. Males have a powdery blue abdomen or 'tail'. The female tail is mostly black with a long yellow stripe on each side. Adults feed on small flying insects.

Like other skimmers, the Twelve-spotted Skimmer is usually found near sources of water. Females lay eggs in ponds, lakes, or slow-moving streams and rivers where they hatch into naiads. The young naiads look more like crustaceans than dragonflies and spend this early life stage underwater. After feeding and growing, naiads eventually crawl out of the water and molt into winged adults.

This species is common across all three countries on the North American continent. They are active mostly in the summer and are fast fliers. Look for these large, robust skimmers near the water's edge by lagoons, creeks, ponds, and lakes.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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: Libellula
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            Species: pulchella

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Libellula pulchella
Other Name(s): Ten-spot Skimmer, Ten-spot Dragonfly
Category: Dragonfly or Damselfly
Size (Adult; Length): 48mm to 53mm (1.88" to 2.08")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; white; blue; orange; brown
Descriptors: six black; six white; spots; brown; blue tail; flying; dragonfly; twelve; ten

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 48mm (1.9in) and 53mm (2.1in)
Lo: 48mm
Md: 50.5mm
Hi: 53mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Twelve-spotted 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 Twelve-spotted Skimmer. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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