Widow Skimmer

A large four-winged insect rests on lakeside vegetation.

NPS/Gordon Dietzman


These are large, beautiful dragonflies that are very common in certain areas, and not unusual to find anywhere in the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, except for urban areas.

This dragonfly is easy to identify because no other dragonfly has a similar wing marking pattern in our area.

Like most other dragonflies, the widow skimmer male is territorial and may patrol very large areas to search for females and to chase off other males. After mating, the female usually lays her eggs alone in shallow ponds or lakes. However, if there are many other males around, the original male may jealously guard her while she is laying to make sure some other male doesn't interfere.

Watch for Behavior

The male has white spots on the wings (as shown in photograph); the female lack these spots and have darker abdomens than older males. As males mature their tails become whiter, giving this species their name. Males often perch on lakeside vegetation and pursue other dragonflies that encroach on their territory. Watch for this behavior.


Key ID Features: 1.8" long. Male shown above. Female similar but without white wing patches. Male's tail becomes pruinose.

Present in Park: June through August. Common throughout the park. Check the grassy areas southwest of Pickerel Lake in Lilydale Regional Park.

Habitat: Ponds, lakes and surrounding areas.

Last updated: December 4, 2017

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111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
Saint Paul, MN 55101


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