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Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)


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



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Image Credit: Arch Baker
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Image Credit: Paul T. from West Tulsa County, OK
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Image Credit: Paul and Kellie T. from West Tulsa County, OK
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Big and slow Widow Skimmer males and females do not look alike, but they have no problem recognizing each other.



Updated: 07/15/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Widow Skimmers live near warm waters. The water source could be a pond, marsh, small lake, or lagoon. Water is necessary for a skimmer's first life stage, and adults are often found near wet places, too. Transparent wings on males and females have similar thick black bands on either side, but males have a long abdomen that is light powdery blue, but females are yellow and black. Come mating season, adults have no trouble pairing off despite these color differences. Unlike some other species where males guard egg-laying females, Widow Skimmer males leave the female by herself, 'widowing' her as she lays her eggs just under the surface of the water.

Larval dragonflies are called naiads. They usually have large jaws and look more like a squat bug than an elegant dragonfly. They live underwater and eat smaller aquatic insects including other naiads sharing the same pond. They eventually leave the water and begin crawling on land to find a shrub or low plant to cling to. They molt again and emerge as adults in late spring or summer, depending on the climate. Adults feed on small insects and can be found resting on shrubs, reeds, and other short plants.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon
Striped or banded insect icon


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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: luctuosa
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Libellula luctuosa
Category: Dragonfly or Damselfly
Size (Adult; Length): 42mm to 50mm (1.65" to 1.96")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: white, black, blue, yellow, brown
Descriptors: flying, spots, dragonfly, banded, stripes
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Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 42mm (1.7in) and 50mm (2.0in)
Lo: 42mm
Md: 46mm
Hi: 50mm
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
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Widow 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 Widow Skimmer. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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