Minnesota Dragonflies

Order Odonata

Odonata is the order of insects that is distinguished by a number of morphological features. Adults have minute antennae; extremely large eyes that fill most of the head; two pairs of transparent, membranous wings with many small veins; and a long slender abdomen. Nymphs (larval stage) have posterior tracheal gills and a prehensile labium (extendible jaws underneath the head). The order includes dragonflies and damselflies.

There are about 6,000 Odonata species in about 600 genera in 29 families worldwide. In North America there are 462 species in 90 genera in 12 families.

Odonata Central lists 151 Odonata species in Minnesota.

No Taxonomic Rank: Anisoptera/Anisozygoptera Group (Dragonflies)

The order Odonata is separated into two groups: Anisoptera/Anisozygoptera group (dragonflies); and the suborder Zygoptera (damselflies). Dragonflies are similar to damselflies but are larger; the bodies are more stout; the heads are bulbous, nearly as long as wide; the compound eyes meet at the top of the head (except in clubtails); the hindwings are larger and a different shape than the forewings; the wings and are held flat and away from the body when at rest; the flight is agile, strong, and sustained; and the ovipositor, if present, is nonfunctional except in some darners.

There are about 3,016 still surviving (extant) dragonfly species in 349 genera in 12 families worldwide. In North America north of Mexico there are 330 species in 69 genera in 8 families. Odonata Central lists 109 dragonfly species in Minnesota.

It has been proposed by Rehn (2003) that the Anisoptera/Anisozygoptera group be combined into a new subfamily Epiprocta. This reordering has not been widely accepted.

four-spotted skimmer




Recent Additions

Lake darner

Lake darner (Aeshna eremita) is the largest mosaic darner (genus Aeshna) in North America. It is a late-season dragonfly, flying to the end of September. It is found throughout Canada, the northern United States, and the Rocky Mountains. In Minnesota it is fairly common in the northern third of the state.

The adult hunts mostly during the day but also sometimes at dusk. It is a strong flier but does not hover during flight. When hunting it cruises above the water surface with its abdomen slightly arched. It often feeds in swarms, sometimes in great numbers, often with other dragonfly species. It often perches vertically on tree trunks, rarely on the ground.

There are at least ten blue darner dragonfly species found in Minnesota and they are notoriously difficult to tell apart in the field. Lake darner is distinguished by its large size, the first lateral thoracic stripe that is deeply notched and has a dot in the notch, and a black line through the upper face.

  lake darner

Frosted whiteface

Frosted whiteface (Leucorrhinia frigida) is a small “skimmer” dragonfly. It is fairly common in the upper Midwest, more common in the northeast. It is found from mid-May to mid-August at the edges of boggy or marshy ponds and lakes. It forages by perching on low plants at the waters edge. While the female deposits her eggs her mate will guard her by snatching and holding a rival male until the eggs are laid.

Whitefaces (genus Leucorrhinia) are identified by their white face, small black patch at the base of each wing, and black legs. Frosted whiteface males are distinguished by a brown thorax with no red markings; abdominal segments one through four covered with a whitish, waxy bloom (frosted); and the region of the wing just beyond the forewing triangle having just two rows of cells, not three. Females and juveniles are difficult to distinguish from other whitefaces.

  frosted whiteface

Four-spotted skimmer

Four-spotted skimmer (Libellula quadrimaculata) is common, widespread, and misnamed.

Eight-spotted skimmer has two large spots on each wing for a total of eight. Twelve-spotted skimmer has three large dark spots on each wing for a total of twelve. Four-spotted skimmer has two small dark spots on each wing and one large spot on each hindwing for a total of ten. A more appropriate name might be ten-spotted skimmer (Libellula decamaculata).

Four-spotted skimmer is an early season, medium-sized skimmer. It is found from mid-May to September at the edges of boggy lakes and ponds, fens, and slow streams. It is usually seen perched at the top of a tall emergent plant or a weed, often far from water.

It is easily identified up close by the two dark spots on the leading edge of each wing. It is further distinguished by the bright yellowish-brown color on the thorax and front half of the abdomen of juveniles, amber streak with yellow veins at the leading edge of each wing on juveniles, black patch at the base of the hindwing, and narrow yellow stripe on each side of the abdomen. Unlike other skimmers, the female abdomen is tapered like the males, not parallel-sided.

  four-spotted skimmer

Green-faced clubtail

Green-faced clubtail (Gomphus viridifrons) is an early season, medium-sized clubtail. While it is more common in the northeast than in Minnesota, it is uncommon and considered rare over most of its range. It is found from mid-May to mid-July near rapid medium streams and rivers with gravel, silt, sand, and rocks on the bottom. Males are most active in late afternoon, especially under cloud cover.

Green-faced clubtail is distinguished by the face with only light markings, missing middle stripe on the side of the thorax, unusually small abdominal spots, no spots on abdominal segments 8 through 10, and abdominal segment 9 shorter than segment 8.

  green-faced clubtail

Lilypad clubtail

Lilypad clubtail (Arigomphus furcifer) is an uncommon, early season, medium-sized, pond clubtail. It is a northeastern species, occurring from Maine and northern Virginia to most of Wisconsin. Its range barely extends across the border to Minnesota. It is found from late May to early August by marshy ponds, lakes, and slow streams with submerged vegetation and brushy shores. It often perches on lilypads, a behavior that gave this dragonfly its common name, but it also perches on other floating vegetation, small trees, and sometimes on the ground.

Lilypad clubtail is identified by its azure blue eyes; narrow abdomen only slightly clubbed; long narrow spots on the top of all abdominal segments except 8 and 9; bright orangish-brown patches on the sides of segments 8 and 9; legs that are all black; and the area at the top of the head straight across or slightly convex.

  lilypad clubtail

Other Recent Additions

horned clubtail (Arigomphus cornutus)

rusty snaketail (Ophiogomphus rupinsulensis)

black saddlebags (Tramea lacerata)

eastern amberwing (Perithemis tenera)

blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)

  blue dasher








Profile Photo Video      


American emerald (Cordulia shurtleffii)


autumn meadowhawk

band-winged meadowhawk

belted whiteface

blue dasher

black-tipped darner

chalk-fronted corporal

cherry-faced meadowhawk

common baskettail

common green darner

common whitetail

dot-tailed whiteface

eastern amberwing

eastern pondhawk

four-spotted skimmer

frosted whiteface

green-faced clubtail

green-striped darner

Halloween pennant

horned clubtail

Illinois river cruiser

lake darner

lance-tipped darner

lilypad clubtail

midland clubtail

mustached clubtail

plains clubtail

racket-tailed emerald

red saddlebags

ruby meadowhawk

rusty snaketail

shadow darner

springtime darner

twelve-spotted skimmer

variegated meadowhawk

white-faced meadowhawk

widow skimmer


arrow clubtail (Stylurus spiniceps)


arrowhead spiketail (Cordulegaster obliqua)


ashy clubtail (Gomphus lividus)

Profile Photo Photo

autumn meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum)

Profile Photo Photo

band-winged meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum)


belted whiteface (Leucorrhinia proxima)

Profile Photo  

belted whiteface (Leucorrhinia proxima)


black meadowhawk (Sympetrum danae)

Profile Photo Photo

black saddlebags (Tramea lacerata)


black-shouldered spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus)

  Photo Photo

black-tipped darner (Aeshna tuberculifera)

Profile Photo Photo

blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)


blue-eyed darner (Rhionaeschna multicolor)


blue-faced meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum)


boreal snaketail (Ophiogomphus colubrinus)


boreal whiteface (Leucorrhinia borealis)


brush-tipped emerald (Somatochlora walshii)


calico pennant (Celithemis elisa)


Canada darner (Aeshna canadensis)


Carolina saddlebags (Tramea carolina)

Profile Photo Photo

chalk-fronted corporal (Ladona julia)

  Photo Photo

cherry-faced meadowhawk (Sympetrum internum)


cobra clubtail (Gomphus vastus)


common baskettail (Epitheca cynosura)

Profile Photo Photo

common green darner (Anax junius)

  Photo Photo

common whitetail (Plathemis lydia)


crimson-ringed whiteface (Leucorrhinia glacialis)


crimson-ringed whiteface (Leucorrhinia glacialis)


Cyrano darner (Nasiaeschna pentacantha)


delicate emerald (Somatochlora franklini)

Profile Photo Photo

dot-tailed whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta)


dragonhunter (Hagenius brevistylus)


dusky clubtail (Gomphus spicatus)

  Photo Photo

eastern amberwing (Perithemis tenera)


eastern least clubtail (Stylogomphus albistylus)

  Photo Photo

eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)


ebony boghaunter (Williamsonia fletcheri)


elfin skimmer (Nannothemis bella)


elusive clubtail (Stylurus notatus)


extra-striped snaketail (Ophiogomphus anomalus)


fawn darner (Boyeria vinosa)


forcipate emerald (Somatochlora forcipata)

Profile Photo Photo

four-spotted skimmer (Libellula quadrimaculata)

Profile Photo Photo

frosted whiteface (Leucorrhinia frigida)


great blue skimmer (Libellula vibrans)


great spreadwing (Archilestes grandis)

Profile Photo  

green-faced clubtail (Gomphus viridifrons)


green-striped darner (Aeshna verticalis)

  Photo Photo

Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina)


harlequin darner (Gomphaeschna furcillata)


Hine’s Emerald (Somatochlora hineana)

Profile Photo Photo

horned clubtail (Arigomphus cornutus)


Hudsonian whiteface (Leucorrhinia hudsonica)

Profile Photo  

Illinois river cruiser (Macromia illinoiensis illinoiensis)


jade clubtail (Arigomphus submedianus)


Kennedy’s emerald (Somatochlora kennedyi)

Profile Photo Photo

lake darner (Aeshna eremita)


lake emerald (Somatochlora cingulata)


lancet clubtail (Gomphus exilis)

  Photo Photo

lance-tipped darner (Aeshna constricta)

Profile Photo Photo

lilypad clubtail (Arigomphus furcifer)

Profile Photo Photo

midland clubtail (Gomphus fraternus)


mustached clubtail (Gomphus adelphus)


ocellated darner (Boyeria grafiana)


ocellated emerald (Somatochlora minor)

  Photo Photo

plains clubtail (Gomphus externus)


plains emerald (Somatochlora ensigera)


prince baskettail (Epitheca princeps)


pronghorn clubtail (Gomphus graslinellus)


pygmy snaketail (Ophiogomphus howei)


Quebec emerald (Somatochlora brevicincta)

Profile Photo Photo

racket-tailed emerald (Dorocordulia libera)


rapids clubtail (Gomphus quadricolor)

  Photo Photo

red saddlebags (Tramea onusta)


red-veined meadowhawk (Sympetrum madidum)


riffle snaketail (Ophiogomphus carolus)


ringed emerald (Somatochlora albicincta)


riverine clubtail (Stylurus amnicola)


royal river cruiser (Macromia taeniolata)

  Photo Photo

ruby meadowhawk (Sympetrum rubicundulum)


russet-tipped clubtail (Stylurus plagiatus)

Profile Photo Photo

rusty snaketail (Ophiogomphus rupinsulensis)

Profile   Photo

saffron-winged meadowhawk (Sympetrum costiferum)


St. Croix snaketail (Ophiogomphus susbehcha)

Profile Photo Photo

shadow darner (Aeshna umbrosa)


Sioux snaketail (Ophiogomphus smithi)


skillet clubtail (Gomphus ventricosus)


ski-tipped emerald (Somatochlora elongata)


slaty skimmer (Libellula incesta)


smoky shadowdragon (Neurocordulia molesta)


spatterdock darner (Rhionaeschna mutata)


spiny baskettail (Epitheca spinigera)


splendid clubtail (Gomphus lineatifrons)


spot-winged glider (Pantala hymenaea)


springtime darner (Basiaeschna janata)


stream cruiser (Didymops transversa)


striped saddlebags (Tramea calverti)


Stygian shadowdragon (Neurocordulia yamaskanensis)


subarctic darner (Aeshna subarctica)


swamp darner (Epiaeschna heros)

  Photo Photo

twelve-spotted skimmer (Libellula pulchella)


twin-spotted spiketail (Cordulegaster maculata)


unicorn clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes)


variable darner (Aeshna interrupta)

Profile Photo Photo

variegated meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum)


wandering glider (Pantala flavescens)

  Photo Photo

white-faced meadowhawk (Sympetrum obtrusum)

  Photo Photo

widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)


Williamson’s emerald (Somatochlora williamsoni)


zebra clubtail (Stylurus scudderi)


zigzag darner (Aeshna sitchensis)




No Species Page Yet?

If you do not see a linked page for an insect in the list at left, or the insect does not appear in the list, you can still upload a photo or video as an email attachment or report a sighting for that insect. Click on one of the buttons below and type in the common name and/or scientific name of the insect in your photo, video, or sighting. A new page will be created for that insect featuring your contribution.


Capitalization of Common Names

Insect scientific names are governed by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). Vernacular (common) names are not. In an attempt to “assure the uniformity of (common) names of common insects” the Entomological Society of America (ESA) published Common Names of Insects and Related Organisms. ESA has no rule or guideline that addresses capitalization of common names. However, the database of common names published by ESA does not capitalize common names. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) also uses uncapitalized common names. Most other sources, including ITIS, BAMONA, Odonata Central, and the Peterson Field Guides, capitalize common insect names. MinnesotaSeasons.com will adhere to the convention followed by ESA and NCBI.



Last Updated:

About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © 2019 MinnesotaSeasons.com. All rights reserved.