The five (or six) species in this group (three occur in Minnesota) seem to have evolved in North America. All have a some variation of a claw-shaped hamule. The Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum), a southern species, is the only species without the characteristic black triangles along the abdomen (instead it is nearly ringed and mature males have a blue frons). The Striped Meadowhawk (Sympetrum pallipes), a western species, is the only species in this group with thoracic stripes.
The remaining three (or four) species—White-faced Meadowhawk, Ruby Meadowhawk, Cherry-faced Meadowhawk, (and Jane’s Meadowhawk)—are near look alikes, and have caused no end of trouble for people trying to differentiate among them. If meadowhawks have a bad name, it’s because of these three (four) species. Luckily, mature males can be distinguished in the field by color. Juvenile males and females may have to be netted and examined in hand, using a high-power loupe or a microscope. Because these are among the most common species, you can readily obtain much practice.
S. obtrusum (male) – hamules (photo by Curt Oien)
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