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Autumn Meadowhawk

Common Name: Autumn Meadowhawk.

Scientific Name: Sympetrum Vicinum.

What to look for?  Red dragonfly with yellow legs! The adult Autumn Meadowhawk has a red face and red, slender abdomen. They have large compound eyes. Their wings are relatively clear and colorless with amber patches at the base of their wings. The stigma - spot at tip of wings - is two-toned red, lighter at each end and darker in the middle. All of the wing veins are black. Their lower legs are yellowish, not black as are other types of Meadowhawks.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? The Autumn Meadowhawk is most active from August to October and even into November. Look for them around the woodlands rather than the water’s edge. They will perch frequently on tips of low vegetation.

How big are they? Autumn Meadowhawks are fairly small as dragonflies go. The Autumn Meadowhawk averages around one and one-third (1.3) inches in length. And their wingspan is also approximately two inches.

What are their flight patterns? Autumn Meadowhawks and other dragonflies are expert fliers. They can fly straight up and down, hover like a helicopter and even mate mid-air. If they can’t fly, they’ll starve because they only eat prey they catch while flying. Autumn Meadowhawks are active daytime fliers.

How else do they behave? The Autumn Meadowhawk is behaviorally different from most of the dragonflies as they tend to rest higher off the ground and are found further away from water.  Unlike most dragonflies, this species completes most of their courtship away from water, only visiting a pond or marsh after mating has already taken place and the female is ready to lay eggs. They are voracious predators of small flying insects such as flies and mosquitoes. Autumn Meadowhawks will move quickly in flight, but then hover and perch. Repeating over and over again.

What’s for dinner? Adult Autumn Meadowhawks will eat almost any small, soft bodied insects, including mosquitoes, flies, small moths, mayflies, and flying ants and termites. During their larval stage, Autumn Meadowhawks feed on the larvae of mosquitos and other aquatic insects, mayfly naiads, freshwater shrimp, and very small fish and tadpoles.

Where do they take up residence? The Autumn Meadowhawk is found throughout United States, except the desert Southwest, the northern Rocky Mountains, and the Gulf coasts. It is also found in southeastern and extreme southwestern Canada. They inhabit marshes, lakes, ponds, and bogs in areas that are wooded.

When and where do they breed and nest? Eggs hatch in the early spring of the following year after overwintering. After molting, the larva increases in size and changes in coloring can occur – all in about an hour’s time. After going through a series of molts, Autumn Meadowhawks begin showing signs of becoming an adult dragonfly. It can take an individual anywhere from one to seven weeks to become ready to emerge as an adult - usually later in summer. Once an individual has become an adult, it has two main goals: to eat and to mate. Once they reach sexual maturity, individuals seek a mate, lay eggs, and die soon afterward.

Where do they migrate? No.

Do they make any interesting sounds? No.

Interesting Facts About the Autumn Meadowhawk:

  • Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve, some 300 million years ago and had wingspans of up to two feet.

  • There are more than 5,000 known species of dragonflies, all of which (along with damselflies) belong to the order Odonata, which means “toothed one” in Greek and refers to the dragonfly’s serrated teeth.

  • Autumn Meadowhawks are active into late fall or early winter, making them one of the last species of dragonflies you’re likely to see before they disappear entirely for the winter.

  • The pale legs of an Autumn Meadowhawk is a characteristic that distinguishes them from other similar dragonflies; in fact, this species used to be known as the Yellow-legged Meadowhawk due to its pale-yellow legs.

  • The life cycle of an Autumn Meadowhawk is approximately one year.

  • Behavior can be affected by temperature such that if an individual begins the morning in the shade, it sometimes takes six extra hours for the insect's first flight of the day.

For more information on the Autumn Meadowhawk and sources of information used in this blog (these are the several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Blog, University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web, The Dragonfly Woman, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee - Bug Lady, and the Iowa State University Bug Guide.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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