Saffron-winged Meadowhawk

Sympetrum costiferum (Hagen, 1861)

(sym•PET•rum cos•STIFF•er•um)

Name refers to the colored costa (leading wing veins)

 

 

Quick Identification Tips

  • Pencil thin black markings along abdomen and on top of segments 8 & 9 (sometimes 7).
  • Saffroning limited to the leading wing veins.
  • Long pale yellow stigma outlined in black.
  • Females are very pallid, and become more pale as they age.

 

Description

A large, late-season meadowhawk. This species gets its common name from the golden-yellow color of the wing veins and cells at the leading edges of its wings. This coloring is most conspicuous in females and immature males. This coloring clears and veins turn red in mature males, eventually fading to reddish-black in older specimens.

 

The most distinct waist of the meadowhawks. The genus name “Sympetrum” refers to this narrowing of the abdomen at sections 4 and 5 . A footnote to the original description by Newman explains the origin of the word to be sympetriza, the Greek word for constriction.

 

Similar Species

Male Saffron-winged Meadowhawks can be mistaken, especially in photographs, for male Autumn Meadowhawks. The Saffron-winged Meadowhawk is larger, a characteristic not easily perceived in photos, the fore-edge of the wings, especially the leading three veins are colored, progressing from saffron-yellow in juveniles to bright red in mature males then fading in older specimens. In sihlouette, these two species differ as well, the Saffron-winged has a distinctly more gallant constriction / expansion at the beginning of the abdomen, followed by a narrowing and flare along the rest of the abdomen, giving the Saffron-winged a rather stallion-like elegance.

 

Minnesota Status

A transitional species. Found throughout Minnesota. Very abundant in the northwest and west central counties, where it is usually the most common meadowhawk.

 

Natural History

One of the last meadowhawks to emerge. Will congregate on gravel roads and footpaths late in the season as the sun weakens and the temperatures cool. Oviposits in tandem in shallow, open water. Ovipositing pairs often attract other ovipositing pairs until there can be quite a crowd.

 

Journal Notes

September 9, 2011. Sheyenne National Grasslands in North Dakota. I observed a barbed wire fence where every barb for as far as I could see held a Saffron-winged Meadowhawk. Better yet, they were all pointed in the same direction.

 

Hind wing: 23.5 – 27mm Total Length: 34 – 37mm (n=4)

 

Flight season: July – October