Spreadwing Damselflies

There are 11 different spreadwing damselflies in Wisconsin. Besides the spreadwings there are another two families of damsels including the broad-winged which has 4 and the pond species that has 34.

Characteristics of Spreadwing Damselflies

Species in the damselfly families are similar to dragonflies but have slimmer bodies and normally hold their wings at the side of their bodies when at rest.

Species in the spreadwing family are mainly metallic bronze or green and perch with the wings half spread.

Males have blue eyes and terminal abdominal appendages (by end of tail) called claspers which help hold onto females during mating.

Habitat:

  • These damselflies are commonly found near ponds, lakes, slow-moving streams, and other freshwater habitats.
  • They prefer areas with emergent vegetation and floating vegetation mats where they can perch and hunt for prey.

Behavior:

  • These damselflies exhibit an elegant and delicate flight pattern. They are skilled fliers and can often be observed hovering or perching on vegetation near the water’s edge.

Male or Female?

Males

Male spreadwing damselflies have blue eyes and terminal abdominal appendages (by end of tail) called claspers which help hold onto females during mating.

Females

Female spreadwing damselflies are a little more difficult to identify because they lack blue eyes and are dull in color.


11 Spreadwing Damsels of Wisconsin

With 11 stunning species gracing our waterways, these delicate aerial dancers add a touch of magic to the Badger State’s wetlands. From vibrant colors to intricate wing patterns, witness nature’s miniature marvels in flight!

1.) Amber-winged Spreadwing

The Amber-winged Spreadwing (Lestes eurinus) is a species of damselfly belonging to the family Lestidae. Here are some key characteristics and information about the Amber-winged Spreadwing:

Identification:

  • The Amber-winged Spreadwing is a medium-sized damselfly with a length ranging from about 1.2 to 1.5 inches (3 to 4 cm).
  • Adult males typically have amber-colored wings, which is a distinctive feature that sets them apart from other damselfly species.
  • Females and immature individuals may have less prominent amber wings, and their overall coloration can vary.

Range:

  • The Amber-winged Spreadwing is found in the eastern and central parts of North America. Its range includes various states in the United States and parts of southeastern Canada.

2.) Elegant Spreadwing

Identification:

  • Adult Elegant Spreadwings are relatively small damselflies with a length ranging from about 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm).
  • The wings are clear, and their body coloration can vary, but males often have metallic green thoraxes and abdomens, while females tend to be more subdued in color.

Range:

  • The range of the Elegant Spreadwing includes various parts of North America. They can be found in both the eastern and central regions, ranging from Canada to the United States.

Reproduction:

  • Mating behavior in Elegant Spreadwings involves males attracting females through visual displays and territorial behaviors. Once mating occurs, females lay their eggs in aquatic vegetation.

3.) Emerald Spreadwing

Also known as robust spreadwings.

Identification:

  • Adult Robust Spreadwings are relatively large damselflies with a length ranging from about 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 cm).
  • Males typically have a blue abdomen with dark markings, while females may have a greenish or brownish abdomen with dark markings.
  • Both males and females have clear wings, and their eyes are separated.

Range:

  • The range of the Robust Spreadwing includes various parts of North America. They are found in both the eastern and central regions, ranging from Canada to the United States.

4.) Great Spreadwing

Identification:

  • Adult Great Spreadwings are large damselflies, with a length ranging from about 2 to 2.5 inches (5 to 6.4 cm).
  • Males typically have a metallic greenish-blue thorax and abdomen, while females tend to be more subdued in color with brownish or greenish markings.
  • They have clear wings with dark veins, and their eyes are separated.

Range:

  • The range of the Great Spreadwing includes various parts of North America. They can be found in both the eastern and central regions, ranging from Canada to the United States.

5.) Lyre-tipped Spreadwing

Identification:

  • Adult Lyre-tipped Spreadwings are medium-sized damselflies with a length ranging from about 1.2 to 1.6 inches (3 to 4 cm).
  • The species is named for the distinctive lyre-shaped markings on the male’s abdomen. Males also have a metallic greenish-blue coloration on their thorax and abdomen.
  • Females tend to be more subdued in color, often brownish or greenish.

Range:

  • The range of the Lyre-tipped Spreadwing includes various parts of North America. They can be found in both the eastern and central regions, ranging from Canada to the United States.

More Insects:
 Milkweed Bug
 Stink Bug
 Common Scorpionfly


6.) Northern Spreadwing

Identification:

  • Adult Northern Spreadwings are relatively large damselflies, with a length ranging from about 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 cm).
  • Males typically have a metallic greenish-blue coloration on their thorax and abdomen. The wings are mostly clear, and the eyes are widely separated.
  • Females have a similar coloration but may be more subdued, often with brownish or greenish tones.

Range:

  • The range of the Northern Spreadwing includes various parts of North America. They can be found in the northeastern and central regions, ranging from Canada to the United States.

7.) Slender Spreadwing

Identification:

  • Adult Slender Spreadwings are relatively small damselflies with a length ranging from about 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 3.8 cm).
  • Males typically have a metallic greenish-blue coloration on their thorax and abdomen. The wings are mostly clear, and the eyes are widely separated.
  • Females may have a more subdued coloration, often with brownish or greenish tones.

Range:

  • The range of the Slender Spreadwing includes various parts of North America. They can be found in the eastern and central regions, ranging from Canada to the United States.

8.) Spotted Spreadwing

Identification:

  • Found July through mid-September.
  • Adult Spotted Spreadwings are medium-sized damselflies with a length ranging from about 1.2 to 1.5 inches (3 to 4 cm).
  • They are typically characterized by clear and transparent with dark spots on their wings, giving them their common name.
  • Males usually have a bluish or greenish hue on their thorax and abdomen, while females tend to be more subdued in color.
  • The eyes are blue in males, while in females they are always brown.

Range:

  • The range of the Spotted Spreadwing includes various parts of North America. They can be found in both the eastern and central regions, ranging from Canada to the United States.

9.) Southern Spreadwing

Identification:

  • Adult Southern Spreadwings are medium-sized damselflies, with a length ranging from about 1.2 to 1.5 inches (3 to 4 cm).
  • Males typically have a metallic greenish-blue coloration on their thorax and abdomen. The wings are mostly clear, and the eyes are widely separated.
  • Females tend to have a more subdued coloration, often with brownish or greenish tones.

Range:

  • As the name suggests, the Southern Spreadwing is typically found in the southern regions of North America. Its range includes parts of the southeastern United States. But, as nature buffs we quickly learn that the animal kingdom does not read and the go where they wish.

More Insects:
 Golden Backed Snipe Fly
 Eastern Harvestmen
 Cucumber Beetle


10.) Swamp Spreadwing

Identification:

  • Most commonly seen between May and October
  • Adult Swamp Spreadwings are medium-sized damselflies, with a length ranging from about 1.2 to 1.5 inches (3 to 4 cm).
  • Males typically have a metallic greenish-blue coloration on their thorax and abdomen. The wings are mostly clear, and the eyes are widely separated.
  • Females tend to have a more subdued coloration, often with brownish or greenish tones.

Range:

  • The Swamp Spreadwing is found in various parts of North America. Its range includes both the eastern and central regions, extending from Canada to the United States.

11.) Sweetflag Spreadwing

Identification:

  • Also known as Northern Spreadwing.
  • The Northern Spreadwing is a medium-sized damselfly, with a length ranging from about 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 cm).
  • Males typically have a metallic greenish-blue coloration with a black thorax with tan or bluish sides and pale stripes across the shoulders. The wings are mostly clear, and the eyes are widely separated.
  • Females may have a more subdued coloration, often with brownish or greenish tones.

Attribute

The male has a black thorax with tan or bluish sides and with pale stripes across the shoulders. The abdomen is dark with a light gray tip. The body has a frosty coating. The female is thicker in build with a black body. Both sexes may have a light brown spot on the underside of the thorax.

You will find them near swamps, ponds, and streams.

Additional Reads: Broad-winged Damselflies


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