Species of the Week: Twelve Spotted Skimmer

Welcome to the Species of the Week. (Camera phone photos and a bit of relevant information.)

This week: The Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella)

So I was walking along a trail with my kids, and my son and I were talking about our favourite kinds of insects. It turns out we both like dragonflies best. (Then again, 5 year olds like anything best that you tell them you like. If I told him I really had a thing for mosquitoes, he might instantly acquire a deep passion for the little buggers.) Anyhow, we found this pretty dragonfly buzzing back and forth along the side of a slow-moving stream.


It didn’t take much research to find the name: Twelve spotted skimmer (Libellula pulchella). I had no idea there were so many different species of dragonfly. The body is roughly 5 cm (2 inches) long with an 8 cm (3 inch) wingspan. The wings feature alternating black and white patches. . The name must refer to the black spots, or the number wouldn’t make sense.

They eat small flying insects, and are common in Southern Canada and across the United States. They do not bite people.

Dragonflies and Damselflies belong to the order “Odonata.” You can usually tell them apart easily by watching how they land. Dragonflies rest with their wings spread out horizontal with the ground. Damselflies close them above their abdomen. (However, there is supposedly one exception.)

Some other interesting things:

  • The dragonfly head is almost entirely made of eye, so they have a very wide range of vision.
  • They are important in controlling the mosquito population.
  • They can fly up, down or hover in place, and even mate in mid-air.
  • Fossil dragonflies have been found with wingspans of up to 2 feet. Imagine meeting that while canoeing!!  Even today, you can find dragonflies in Costa Rica with wingspans of 19 cm. I think if I met one of these, I might retract my “favourite insect” comment.

If you’re really keen on dragonflies, the Royal Canadian Mint has a 2013 10-dollar silver coin with this particular species.

And if you’re really, really keen, you can visit the world’s largest dragonfly in Wabamun Alberta: http://www.roadsideattractions.ca/wabamun.htm Anyone been there?

There we finally have it, a species that isn’t a plant that stayed still long enough for me to photograph!










Posted on July 27, 2013, in Species of the week, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Very cool! Dragonflies are such amazing creatures. My boys love them- my now 11 yr old used to be able to catch them when he was little (just for a moment, then he’d let it fly away).


  2. I like dragonflies a lot, too. They seem very magical!


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