Eastern Amberwing: Essential Guide to This Fascinating Dragonfly

The Eastern Amberwing is a fascinating species of dragonfly, known for its small size and distinctive amber-colored wings. Reaching only about an inch in length, this little insect is one of the smallest dragonflies found in North America. With red spots along the outer leading edges of its wings and different wing patterns between males and females, the Eastern Amberwing offers a diverse and eye-catching appearance.

These tiny dragonflies can provide a mesmerizing sight when spotted near ponds, lakes, or slow-moving streams. Males have clear amber wings that showcase the insect’s namesake color, while females possess blotch-patterned wings, setting them apart from their male counterparts. Observing Eastern Amberwings in their natural habitat can offer a glimpse into the intricate behaviors and adaptations that make them such a unique part of our ecosystem.

Eastern Amberwing Basics


The Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) is a small dragonfly belonging to the family Libellulidae and the order Odonata. Males have clear amber wings, while females feature blotch-patterned wings1. Their wings are striking due to their unique colors and patterns:

  • Males: Pure gold wings
  • Females: Brown wings with markings2


With a length of just under 1 inch, Eastern Amberwings are among North America’s tiniest dragonflies2.


Eastern Amberwings can be found across North America1.


Their habitats vary across the continent; more details can be found in the sources provided.

In summary, Eastern Amberwings are eye-catching, tiny dragonflies that can be found in various habitats. By observing their distinctive wing colors and patterns, it is easy to identify males and females within the species.

Eastern Amberwing Life Cycle


Males and females of the Eastern Amberwing have distinct physical features, which aid in mating. Males possess clear amber wings, while females have blotch-patterned wings. They usually mate near water sources such as streams and ponds.

Eggs and Naiads

After mating, females lay their eggs in water. These eggs later hatch into aquatic nymphs called naiads, which are the larval stage of dragonflies. During their time in streams and ponds, naiads feed on various aquatic organisms and undergo several molts as they grow.

Characteristics of Eastern Amberwing naiads include:

  • Aquatic habitat
  • Predatory feeding behavior
  • Molting for growth

Adult Stage

As the naiads mature, they eventually crawl out of the water and transition to the adult stage. Adult Eastern Amberwing dragonflies exhibit impressive flight capabilities and feed primarily on flying insects. Females’ blotch-patterned wings enable them to camouflage better, thus protecting them from predators.

Here’s a comparison of the Eastern Amberwing life cycle stages:

Stage Habitat Appearance Feeding
Egg Water (ponds, small streams) Tiny, laid in water N/A
Naiad Water (ponds, small streams) Aquatic nymphs Predatory
Adult Aerial Distinct wing patterns (males – clear amber, females – blotch-patterned) Insectivorous

In summary, the Eastern Amberwing life cycle consists of three stages: egg, naiad, and adult. These tiny dragonflies mate, lay eggs in water, and develop into predatory naiads before finally maturing into flying insects. Their unique wing patterns and behaviors play vital roles in this species’ survival and reproduction.

Physical Characteristics


The Eastern Amberwing is known for its striking coloration. Males and females display different colors, making them easy to distinguish:

  • Males: Clear amber wings, which give the species its name 1
  • Females: Brown, blotch-patterned wings2


The wings of the Eastern Amberwing are visually distinctive and play a crucial role in identification. Some features include:

  • Small red spot on the outer leading edge of each amber-colored wing3
  • Only about 1 inch in length4


The Eastern Amberwing’s abdomen is relatively small, considering the overall size of the dragonfly. Although not as eye-catching as the wings or coloration, it still contributes to the insect’s unique appearance.

Comparison Table

Feature Male Female
Wings Clear amber Brown, blotchy
Wing spot Red on outer Red on outer
Length About 1 inch About 1 inch

Behavior and Territory

Territorial Behavior

The Eastern Amberwing is known for its territorial behavior. Males establish territories near water, often using small ponds and slow-moving streams. They defend their territories by chasing away intruders.

Examples of territorial behavior:

  • Chasing away rival males.
  • Patrolling the perimeter of their territory.

Vegetation and Resting

Eastern Amberwings utilize vegetation within their territory. They often rest on plants in and around their habitat.

Some vegetation types they use:

  • Aquatic plants in ponds.
  • Grasses and shrubs surrounding water bodies.

Comparison table:

Eastern Amberwing Other Dragonflies
Territory Small ponds, slow-moving streams Lakes, rivers, swamps
Perching On plants near water Wide variety of plant-life

Characteristics of Eastern Amberwings:

  • Tiny species of dragonfly, only about 1 inch in length.
  • Amber-colored wings with red spots on leading edge.
  • Territorial behavior near water.

Features of their habitat:

  • Water bodies like ponds and slow-moving streams.
  • Varied vegetation for perching and resting.

The Eastern Amberwing’s territorial behavior and relationship with vegetation make them unique among dragonflies, providing valuable insight into their life and habits.

Feeding and Predators

Diet and Food Preferences

The Eastern Amberwing is a tiny dragonfly species with a body length of around 1 inch. Its diet consists of small insects, playing a vital role in the ecosystem by controlling populations of these insects.

  • Common prey: wasps, flies, and spiders

For example, Eastern Amberwings feed on wasps, which can be harmful to humans and other animals due to their powerful sting.

Predator and Threats

Eastern Amberwings, like other dragonflies, face various threats in their natural habitat. Some of these predators are:

  • Birds
  • Frogs
  • Larger dragonflies

Here is a comparison of the main predators:

Predator Notes
Birds Feed on a variety of insects, including Eastern Amberwings
Frogs Ambush Eastern Amberwings near water sources
Larger dragonflies Attack and eat smaller dragonfly species, like Eastern Amberwings

In conclusion, Eastern Amberwings are important predators of small insects but also face dangers from other predators in their natural habitats. Understanding their diet and threats can contribute to their conservation and ensure their continued role in maintaining balanced ecosystems.

Eastern Amberwing in North America

United States

The Eastern Amberwing is a tiny species of dragonfly found in various parts of the United States, including Missouri and Florida. This dragonfly only grows to about 1 inch in length, making it one of the smallest dragonflies in North America1. Some key features of the Eastern Amberwing are:

  • Amber-colored wings with a red spot on the outer leading edge
  • Males have clear amber wings2
  • Females have blotch-patterned wings


Eastern Amberwings have not been widely documented in Canada. They are mostly found in the eastern and southern parts of the United States3.


There is no concrete information about the presence of Eastern Amberwings in Mexico. However, since they are predominantly found in North America, it is possible that they may be present in some regions of Mexico.

Comparison Table

Eastern Amberwing Elfin Skimmer
Size About 1 inch Slightly smaller
Color Amber wings Not yellow
Presence in North America United States United States4
Distinct Features Red spot on wings

Observation and Identification

Field Guides and Resources

The Eastern Amberwing is a tiny species of dragonfly, reaching about 1 inch in length. To observe and identify them, you’ll need reliable resources. Here are a few:

Characteristics of Eastern Amberwing:

  • Amber-colored wings
  • Red spot on the outer leading edge of each wing
  • Male: Clear amber wings
  • Female: Blotch-patterned wings

Dragonflies Through Binoculars

When observing Eastern Amberwings, using binoculars can enhance the experience. Here are some tips:

  • Choose binoculars specifically designed for close focus.
  • Practice tracking small, fast-moving insects.

A comparison of two popular binoculars for dragonfly observation:

Model Pros Cons
Opticron Savanna WP 6×30 Wide field of view Lower magnification
Vortex Diamondback 8×42 Good magnification Narrower field of view

Practice and patience are essential for observing these tiny, fast-moving dragonflies with ease. So grab your binoculars, head out to the field, and spot those Eastern Amberwings!

Preserving and Contributing

Naturalists and Conservation Initiatives

Eastern Amberwings are fascinating invertebrates that help maintain a healthy ecosystem. Naturalists play an important role in preserving these tiny creatures and raising awareness about their significance. Several conservation initiatives work tirelessly to protect Eastern Amberwings and other related species like earthworms, slugs, snails, and crayfish.

To gain more insight on how to support Eastern Amberwings and other invertebrates, contact your local extension office for expert professional advice. They can provide information on how you can contribute to the diverse natural world in your area.

Contributing to BugGuide and Research

BugGuide, a project by Iowa State University, aims to collect invaluable information about the Eastern Amberwing and other species with jointed legs, such as millipedes, centipedes, and mites. By contributing observations, pictures, and data to BugGuide, you’re directly helping researchers better understand these fascinating creatures.

If you want to get involved, simply create an account on BugGuide and start submitting your contributions. Make sure to read their terms of use and privacy statement, as well as adhere to proper licensing guidelines when submitting content. BugGuide also offers a printer-friendly version and a site map for better navigation.

  • Pros of contributing to BugGuide:

    • Helping researchers and naturalists gather vital information
    • Raising awareness about invertebrate species and their importance
    • Expanding our knowledge about these amazing creatures
  • Cons of contributing to BugGuide:

    • Time investment for observations, photography, and data submission
    • Keeping up with licensing and proper submission guidelines


  1. Eastern Amberwing | MDC Teacher Portal 2 3 4

  2. Eastern Amberwing Dragonfly (Family Libellulidae) – Field Station 2 3 4

  3. Eastern Amberwing | Missouri Department of Conservation 2

  4. Eastern Amberwing Dragonfly (Family Libellulidae) – Field Station 2

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Eastern Amberwing


New species – Eastern Amberwing dragonfly
Here’s a new species for your website (and a new species for me). I’m fairly positive this is a female Eastern Amberwing dragonfly. It was the shortest dragonfly I’ve ever seen. Photo taken in Memphis, TN. Tim

Hi Tim,
We agree that this is a female Eastern Amberwing, Perithemis tenera, based on a matching image on the Dragonflies and Damselflies of New Jersey website.

Letter 2 – Eastern Amberwing


Subject: eastern amberwing dragonfly
Location: Auburn, NJ
July 22, 2012 8:34 am
Hi Bugman,
First saw these hanging out on my pepper plants. I think must be a male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly. http://www.njodes.com/Speciesaccts/skimmers/ambe-east.asp
Would you agree?
They are much smaller than some of the other types that frequent my place, and their color really makes them stand out from the crowd. But you gotta love that face!
Signature: Creek Keeper

Eastern Amberwing

Hi Creek Keeper,
We agree with you that this is an Eastern Amberwing,
Perithemis tenera.  The Dragonflies and Damselflies of New Jersey website you cited states:  “Our only small (some might say tiny) amber-winged dragonfly.  Females are superficially similar to Halloween Pennant, Calico Pennant, and Painted Skimmer; all are much larger.”  According to images on BugGuide, there is sexual dimorphism and only the male has the amber wings.

Thanks for confirming.  I’ll look for the females now.  Dragonflies are everywhere I look these days. Had a white tail land on me the other day, not sure who was more surprised.  Today a really tiny one was sort of right up in my face.  Fascinating creatures.

Update with new photo
Oh, and just to return past favors, I’ve added another eastern amber wing, but (maybe?)  this time the female, since her wings not entirely amber like the male one I sent you previous.
going buggy in South Jersey,
Creek Keeper

Eastern Amberwing Female

Letter 3 – Female Eastern Amberwing


Subject: Beautiful Eastern Amberwing
Location: Sarasota, FL
July 25, 2013 9:00 am
I caught a rare glimpse of a gorgeous female Eastern Amberwing perched on my lanai!! I’ve included a couple of pictures here, I’ve got some very nice close ups if you want them, I’ll be happy to send them since I’m sure the site reduces pictures a lot. When I first saw it from across my lanai, I thought it was a wasp, here in this part of Florida, wasps look very similar at a glance. It wasn’t moving, and a closer look made me suspect it was possibly getting ready to lay eggs. Very pretty!!
Thanks, love the site!!
Signature: Michelle

Eastern Amberwing
Female Eastern Amberwing

Dear Michelle,
Thank you for sending your lovely photos of a female Eastern Amberwing,
Perithemis tenera, a species with pronounced sexual dimorphism that is also pictured on BugGuide.  Clicking on the photos on our site will enlarge the image in a new window.

Female Eastern Amberwing
Female Eastern Amberwing

Letter 4 – Female Mexican Amberwing, we believe


Subject:  Dragonfly?
Geographic location of the bug:  Gold Canyon, Arizona
Date: 07/25/2018
Time: 09:48 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I found this damaged and dead dragonfly in my back yard this morning.  I’m having a difficult time identifying it.  Thank you!!
How you want your letter signed:  Lucy Lancaster

Female Mexican Amberwing, we believe

Dear Lucy,
Many Dragonflies exhibit pronounced sexual dimorphism, meaning males and females often look like entirely different species, and since male Dragonflies often are more colorful, they are most often found illustrating the species.  That said, we believe we have identified this mutilated corpse as a female Mexican Amberwing,
Perithemis intensa, thanks to images included on the Arizona Dragonflies site, but we would not rule out that it might be a female Eastern Amberwing, Perithemistenera, which is also pictured on Arizona Dragonflies.  Thanks for including the ruler for scale.  Of the Mexican Amberwing, BugGuide notes:  “Small, thorax and abdomen yellowish-brown and unmarked. Wing markings rather variable.”


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    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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