Band-winged Meadowhawk

Sympetrum semicinctum (Say 1840)

(sym•PET•rum  sem•ee•SINK•tum)

Name means partially or half-belted.



Quick Identification Tips

  • Amber-colored to Coffee-colored banding of wings. The banding varies geographically (see below).
  • Black thoracic marking (similar, though much lighter, to that of S. danae)
  • Strong black marks, dorsally, on segments 8 and 9, and segment 2.



This distinctive species is our smallest meadowhawk.


Both sexes have the basal halves of all four wings banded. These bands are often very pale in juveniles, but tend to darken with age.

Rear wing bands are also often darker than the front wing bands, which are occasionally almost absent.


The wing bands and thoracic markings are lighter in the east and darker in the west, so much so that these variations were first described as separate species, subsequent genetic analysis has shown that they are not good species. Two of the three subspecies are observed in Minnesota, S. semicinctum semicintum found in the east and northern forests; S. semicinctum fasciatus found in the drier western prairie counties. Blue Mounds State Park is a good site to observe the latter, western coloration. Lake Byllesby Dakota County Park is a good site for observing the eastern coloration.


As a further confusion, it should be noted that this coloration changes quite dramatically as individual dragonflies age, the colors becoming bolder and darker in older specimens (see color plate comparing thorax coloring for one dozen specimens on a single day at Lake Byllesby Dakota County Park).


Similar Species

Not easily confused with any other species due to the conspicuous banding of the wings.


However, Ruby Meadowhawks, when they have extensive wing color, are often mistaken for Band-winged Meadowhawks due to extensive coloring of their wings. These are not closely related species, abdominal and thoracic coloring is markedly different as are the hamules and vulvar lamina. In photographs look for the complete banding of the Band-winged Meadowhawk where the coloration in the hind wing extends in a near straight line across the entire wing, this band is often darker at the outer edge than it is near the base of the wings (the color patches on the wings of Ruby Meadowhawks do not extend as uniformly across the wing nor are they as dark in color). Also look for the black markings on the dorsal surface of segments 8 & 9 (these are absent on Ruby Meadowhawks).


Minnesota Status

A transitional species. Found throughout Minnesota. Uncommon, though can be very abundant in the ideal habitat, that is spring or groundwater fed wetlands and the slow flowing margins and seeps along rivers.


Natural History

Expresses a fondness for perching on eastern red cedar and juniper when available. Oviposits in flooded grasses, especially when a slow current is present. Adults have been observed to play dead when disturbed.


Journal Notes



Hind wing: 19.5 – 21.5mm Total Length: 26.5 – 29.5mm (n=3)