Black Meadowhawk

Sympetrum danae (Sulzer, 1776)

(sym•PET•rum DAN•ee)

Named for the Greek goddess Danae



Quick Identification Tips

  • Only North American meadowhawk without any red color, the mature males are black.
  • Juvenile males and females are yellow and black.



As the name implies, this red dragonfly is black.


However, this species often has more yellow than black, as it's only the mature males that really live up to the name. Females and juvenile males combine bright yellows, blacks, and chocolate colors. The dorsal surface of the abdomen is yellow with dark, triangular (backgammon-like) inlays of color (this surface is solid yellow for populations in and around the Great Basin area and in Europe). Wings are clear with only small areas of coloration at the bases. Legs are black.


Similar Species

No similar species....except maybe for itself. Recent genetic studies indicate a species-level difference between populations in eastern North America and populations in western North America, Asia, and Europe. Coloration and patterning of the female abdomen is distinct between these two populations. More study is needed, but this seems to indicate that the Black Meadowhawks colonized North America on two separate occasions.


Minnesota Status

Holarctic and widespread Boreal species. Fairly common, though seldom abundant, in the northern reaches of Minnesota, the boreal forests, the peatlands, and the tall-grass aspen parkland. Very rare in the southern two-thirds of the state. Count yourself lucky each time you encounter this species.


Natural History

A late season meadowhawk. Expresses a distinct preference for bogs and peatlands and boggy road ditches. My limited experience shows it to be the most abundant in the northwest part of the state. The most I ever saw in one location was at a road ditch lined with new growth aspen near the Twin Lake SWMA in Kittson County.


Recent observations indicate it may occasionally migrate south late in the year.



Journal Notes



Hind wing: 20.5 – 25mm Total Length: 28 – 33.5mm (n=5)