Red-veined Meadowhawk

Sympetrum madidum (Hagen, 1861)

(sym•PET•rum  MAD•i•dum, or ma•DID•um if you're in Canada)

As with many of the names assigned by Herman Hagen, the meaning of this name remains obscure.



Quick Identification Tips

  • White thoracic stripes
  • Orangish-red tint to entire wings, especially the females.
  • Solid black legs.
  • The mature males are super-sonic red.



This large meadowhawk is the only North American species with a solid wash of color to the wings. Another characteristic marking is a thorax with two wide lateral stripes, white in color. The forward stripe follows the thoracic suture and is edged, along the suture, in black. The male thoracic stripes fade as it matures until only faint, pinkish-white spots remain ventrally. The female darkens but does not turn red as it matures, retaining much of the complex patterning of thorax and abdomen. Solid black legs. Hamule is mitten shaped and is red colored on mature males, not black as S. corruptum for instance. The sub-genital plates are petalate.


The wing venation is distinct from other meadowhawks by the extra cells in the anal loop, an extra row of cells in the radial planate, and an overall increased density of cells throughout the wing. This, according to Needham (1955), is indicative of more ancient dragonflies. Color scan of the wings not only show these unique venation characteristics, but also show the equally unique orange coloring to the entire wing.


Similar Species

Once associated in the literature with Sympetrum corruptum and Sympetrum illotum. These three, because of their differences from the other meadowhawks, were even placed, for a while, in their own genus, Tarnetrum, by James Needham. As it turns out, none are closely related. In fact, phylogenetic work indicates the palearctic species Sympetrum flaveolum to be to only closely related species to Sympetrum madidum.


Female Red-veined Meadowhawks can be confused with female Variegated Meadowhawks, especially when immature. The abdominal patterning and coloring of these two species are remarkable similar, though differences in thoracic stripes, wing color, and leg color make them easy to discern. Luckily their range barely overlaps.


Minnesota Status

A western species. This large meadowhawk is sparsely distributed throughout its range, which includes the northern high plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the West Coast, reaching its easternmost limit in Minnesota.


Easily the least common meadowhawk in Minnesota, it is known only from the tall-grass aspen parkland region in the extreme northwest corner of the state and it is uncommon there.


Natural History

The first meadowhawk to emerge in its range. Also has the tightest flight season of the meadowhawks, from mid-June to the end of July.


Often congregates on gravel roads, especially when the roads run adjacent to moist prairies and flooded CRP land. Their conspicuous orange wings and distinctively smooth flight make it possible to spot them from a moving car. On dry upland prairie, look for them on the bare dirt of gopher mounds.


Journal Notes


June 26, 2011. Kittson County. Near the town of Lancaster.



Hind wing: 25.5 – 29mm Total Length: 39 – 41.5mm (n=7)


Flight season: mid-June -- July