Common Whitetail

Libellula lydia 

 

Photo by Dennis Paulson

The Common Whitetail is one of our most frequently seen dragonflies. It grows to about 1 3/4 inches long and has a stocky body. Males have a chalky white abdomen which makes them easy to identify. Males also have a broad, dark brown band in the center of each wing.

Female whitetails have a brown abdomen with yellowish dash-like markings on the sides. They have brown blotches in the center of each wing and at the tips.

Both sexes have brown faces and brown legs.

Copyright, Rich Stallcup

Giff Beaton

Common Whitetails live just about anywhere there is water, including lakes, ponds, marshes, rivers, and streams. They occur in very large numbers at beaver ponds.

Common Whitetails are perchers, meaning they often rest on logs, rocks, low plant stems, or even on the ground. Males are very territorial, guarding an edge of water 50 to 100 feet long. They are constantly active, perching only a short time before continuing to patrol their turf.

Mark Moran

When one male sees another, it shows off by raising its white abdomen above its body while flying in the air. They will also bang into each other while attempting to steal females.

Mating only takes about three seconds. After mating, a female will dip her abdomen into the water's surface and lay up to 1000 eggs.

Huntley Meadows Park

Eggs hatch into aquatic nymphs, called naiads. Naiads live underwater, feeding on insects, small tadpoles, and other animals as they grow. Each time a naiad molts, it gets closer to being an adult. When the naiad is ready, it crawls out of the water on a plant stem and molts one last time. The adult dragonfly emerges.

Common Whitetails are active from early Spring until Fall. They eat huge amounts of insects, including mosquitoes, flies, and other flying insects. They even go after smaller dragonflies. Whitetails use their two front legs to grab prey in flight.

Predators of adult whitetails include birds, frogs, and other insect eaters. Fish, turtles, and other animals eat naiads.

Mark Moran

Common Whitetails are sometimes seen far from water, in gardens, fields, and roadsides.

Whitetails can tolerate low quality water better than most dragonfly species. This means you may still see them, even when water is polluted.

Mark Moran

Additional Media

Description
Type
Credit
Key to Identifying Common Whitetails
Link to Gloria Mundi's Dragonfly Gallery
gloriamundipress.com

Relationships in Nature:

PREY
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Asian Tiger Mosquito

Crayfish

Yellow Pond Lily

Blue Bottle Fly

Common Snapping Turtle

Tussock Sedge

Crane Fly

Bullfrog

Buttonbush

Clouded Sulphur

Bluegill

Black Willow

Cabbage White

Black Crappie

Common Duckweed

Wood Frog

Channel Catfish

Common Reed

Ebony Jewelwing

Creek Chub

Greater Bladderwort

Fungus Gnat

Eastern Painted Turtle

Green Algae

Giant Willow Aphid

Great Crested Flycatcher

Hydrilla

Green Lacewing

Green Darner

Marsh Bulrush

Pennsylvania Firefly

Largemouth Bass

Pickerelweed

Green Stinkbug

Mallard

Red Maple

Spring Peeper

Large Diving Beetle

Skunk Cabbage

Water Flea

Yellow Perch

Spotted Jewelweed

Eastern Dobsonfly

Six-spotted Fishing Spider

Switchgrass

Earthworm

Virginia Creeper

Dogwood Borer

Wild Grape

Aquatic Worm

Witch Hazel

Fragile Forktail

Poison Ivy

Swamp Rose Mallow

Relationship to Humans:

Common Whitetails, and all dragonflies, are extremely helpful. They eat huge amounts of pesky insects, such as mosquitoes. They are also used by scientists to help determine how polluted water is. Since whitetails can tolerate poorer water than some other dragonflies, their presence helps us figure out just how polluted water may be.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Arthropod
CLASS
Insect
ORDER
Odonata
FAMILY
Libellulidae
GENUS
Libellula
SPECIES
Libellula lydia

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