Across the summer, and from habitat to habitat, the array of dragonflies seen on the wing changes. Pictured above are a pair of Dot-tailed Whiteface dragonflies (Leucorrhinia intacta), a common dragonfly of vegetated ponds, seen in spring and summer. The Whitefaces are members of the Skimmer family. There are 7 species of Whitefaces in North America.
This mating pair demonstrate the “copulation wheel”. In this position, the male transfers a packet of sperm to the female. The process can take from 3 seconds to an hour or more. A male dragonfly can remove sperm deposited by a previous competitor to insure that his own sperm will be the ones fertilizing the female’s eggs. Soon after mating, the female will lay her eggs (oviposit) in flight by tapping the water with the tip of her abdomen.
The Common Whitetail (Libellula lydia) is a stocky skimmer that flies in summer over a wide variety of wetlands. The male, pictured above, shows the chalky white abdomen for which the species is named. The appearance of the female is quite different from the male. Instead of the white of the male, her abdomen is brown, with angled yellowish to white dashes on the sides. The wings are also different. The male’s wings have broad black bands across the middle and thick black bars at the base, while the wings of the female feature black patches at the base, midpoint and tips. A female Common Whitetail is pictured below.