Variegated Meadowhawk

Sympetrum corruptum (Hagen, 1861)

(sym•PET•rum cor•RUP•tum)

Name, apparently, refers to this species questionable taste in habitats, often choosing shallow and rather foul ponds. This of course is a bit of a misnomer as this species takes advantage of many different kinds of ponds, from mud puddles to spring fed ponds.

 

 

Quick Identification Tips

  • Only meadowhawk observed in Minnesota during spring months of March, April, and May.
  • Complex, variegated color and pattern to abdomen
  • White thoracic stripes, ending in egg-yolk-yellow spots
  • Red wing veins, along the leading edge of the wings.
  • Hindwings are wider than other meadowhawk wings, resembling those of other migrant dragonflies, e.g. Wandering Glider and Black Saddlebags.
  • Legs are black with a yellow stripe running the length.
  • Lavender eyes with many pseudopupils

 

Description

The Variegated Meadowhawk breaks the mold. This dragonfly migrates. It oviposits in the springtime. Its eggs hatch immediately, without overwintering. And its elaborately patterned and brightly colored abdomen, from which it gets its name, is not like any other meadowhawk.

 

Being a migrant, the distribution of this species varies from year to year, largely dependent upon spring weather and the status of overwintering populations far to the south of Minnesota.

 

The best time to look for this species is early spring when the other more conspicuous migrant, the Common Green Darner (Anax junius) arrives. Look in restored prairies, sunlit clearings in woods, and at the edges of temporary ponds.

 

Similar Species

No other similar species in North America. Sympetrum corruptum is, however, a sister species to Sympetrum fonscolombii, another migrant with an immense range from Europe to South Africa to Japan, even found far out in the Atlantic on the Azores.

 

However, female Variegated Meadowhawks can be confused with female Red-veined Meadowhawks and in other parts of the country with female Striped Meadowhawks. The first two species are remarkable similar, but their range barely overlaps. Thoracic stripes differ in coloration  (no yellow for S. madidum) and the wing coloration is different as well (entire wings a diffuse orange for S. madidum).

 

Minnesota Status

A widespread species. This large meadowhawk, a migrant, is found across North America, with records from almost every state, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, from California to Florida.

 

Natural History

Unlike other meadowhawks, Variegated Meadowhawk eggs do not overwinter in diapause. Being a migrant species, eggs are deposited in early spring and hatch in a matter of days. Nymphs develop very rapidly, reaching full size in less than two months. There is evidence of two broods during especially long summers, the first generation emerging in July, the second in October.

 

Often perches on bare ground. And sometimes can be observed hawking above prairies like darners or gliders, an unusual behavior for meadowhawks.

 

Journal Notes: April 15, 2010

After an overcast morning with intermittent spits of rain, a warm front swept through southern Minnesota and delivered blue skies, a stiff wind from the south, and soaring temperatures. It was near seventy degrees when my wife and I walked to the elementary school to meet our daughter. While walking, I saw a dragonfly. It flew close to the ground, inches off the street, then across someone's back yard, after which it disappeared into a grouping of trees. The first dragonfly of the year! And if Lisa hadn't seen it as well, I might have counted it a kind of vision and not trusted my eyes. This was nearly two full weeks earlier than the previous year's first dragonfly. More surprisingly, it was not a Common Green Darner but a meadowhawk!

 

Hind wing: 27 – 30mm Total Length: 39 – 43mm (n=7)

 

Flight season: March – October