Autumn Meadowhawk

Sympetrum vicinum (Hagen 1861)

(sym•PET•rum  vi•SIN•um  or  VI•kin•um)

As with many of the names assigned by Herman Hagen, the meaning of this name remains obscure, it may refer to friendliness of this species or to being found in the neighborhood of the taxonomist; I like to imagine Herr Hagen enjoying the sight of living specimen on occasion.



Quick Identification Tips

  • Small late-season meadowhawk.
  • Yellow legs.
  • Female abdomen sections 2 and 3 are unusually large resembling in profile a goldenrod gall.
  • Vulvar scale is pronounced and pitcher-shaped.



Natural History

Of all our species, the Sympetrum vicinum is the most strongly associated with permanent ponds, and ponds near forests. Usually the last dragonfly of the year, routinely survives the first frosts, even the first snow falls.


As the autumn wears on into winter, the Autumn Meadowhawk transitions to a ground perching species, out of necessity. It is the only meadowhawk that is routinely found perching on the trunks of trees. It also utilizes the solar-collector-like surfaces of fallen leaves to warm itself.


I have a sense that the Autumn Meadowhawk is the meadowhawk most people encounter. The Autumn Meadowhawk seems to disperse the farthest from its emergence site. It can be found almost anywhere there is a meeting of trees and open spaces, including back yards, front yards, and gardens. Check old hosta stems in your garden in September and odds are you find an Autumn Meadowhawk perched there.


Minnesota Status

Found throughout Minnesota, though quite uncommon on the prairies and in the north. Abundant in the deciduous forest and moraine country.


Journal Notes: October 18, 2010

Nearing Lilly Lake, just east of the town of Elysian, I knew I didn't really have time to stop, but couldn't resist. The previous summer, returning home from a visit with the poet John Calvin Rezmerski, I'd found hundreds of newly emerged Autumn Meadowhawks. This visit, months later in the year, there may have been even more. In fact, even before I managed to climb out of the car, several dragonflies, bright red males, landed on the hood.


The weather was nearly perfect, as clear and colorful as an autumn day gets and relatively warm with the temperature above sixty degrees. Autumn Meadowhawks congregated on the branch tips, on the fallen leaves, on the frost-burnt shoreline plants, on the gray planks of the public dock. When I set my net down on the dock, a tandem pair landed on the white canvas rim. While I kneeled and positioned to take photos, other dragonflies landed on my camera and on the brim of my hat and on my shoulder, then my arm, then my knee. Before I was finished nearly a dozen dragonflies perched on me. The tandem pair flew off, hovering near shore, dipping and slapping eggs into the shallow water. I stood up, now officially late for picking my daughter up from school, and headed for the car, doing a quick check of my clothing for possible dragonfly hitch-hikers before speeding on my way.


It comes to my shoulder

longing for human company—

a red dragonfly.

– Natsume Soseki (1867–1916)




Hind wing: 22mm Total Length: 31mm (n=1)