Mating red Meadowhawks
June 26, 2010
Hi there, hoping you might be able to help me get a positive ID on these Meadowhawks. Pics taken in early October 2006 on a boardwalk railing in a wetlands park. I’m thinking the series of pics really belongs in a sort of Kama Sutra book for Dragonflies… or perhaps at least one in your Bug Love section! But seriously, they are so beautiful I wanted to share them, and I like to properly label my photos so ID help is appreciated. I have another super crisp shot of a single one just sunning on the rail,showing great detail of the fascinating complexity going on where the wings hook onto the body, but you only have room for 3 pics here. If you are interested in the other, let me know, I’ll send it on.
Totem Lake, Kirkland, Washington State
We agree that these mating Dragonflies are Meadowhawks in the genus Sympetrum, but Dragonfly identification often challenges our abilities. The Red Veined Meadowhawk, Sympetrum madidum, does range in your area, but alas, the BugGuide information page provides no information. The wing patches on your dragonflies, both male and female, are red, and the patches on the photos of the Red-Veined Meadowhawks on BugGuide all have black patches. We favor the Cardinal Meadowhawk, Sympetrum illotum, but again BugGuide does not include information. Seems we are not alone in our difficulty ascertaining the correct identification of Dragonflies. BugGuide also has a page devoted to red adult Meadowhawks, but it has no information except a link to a forum page. On the Forum Page, Cliff provides the following comment: “Sympetrum identification I have seen a number of photos of Sympetrum (Odonata: Libellulidae) in the ID Request section, such as this one: which have been identified as S. rubicundulum or S. internum by people referencing the guide pages for those species. I checked out the guide pages, and found a number of images of these species, apparently identified by photograph alone. I am not an expert, but the literature I have found and people I have talked to indicate that these and several other species (S. janae, most S. obtrusum) are not identifiable without close examination of genital appendages under a microscope. Perhaps we could have some sort of a disclaimer on the guide pages (maybe there is one I missed?) explaining the difficulty of Sympetrum identification, or include a “Sympetrum rubicundulum complex” or “Kalosympetrum sp.” page for specimens that cannot be assigned to species reliably. … …..Cliff“. So Dee, we may not be able to provide a conclusive species identification.