Libellula quadrimaculata
(Four-Spotted Skimmer)

Order: Odonata
Suborder: Anisoptera
Order Description:
Family: Libellulidae
Family Description: Skimmer

   Naiad- This is a medium to large naiad, with a length of 7/8 to 1 1/16 inches (22 to 26 mm). It is orange-brown in color, and the abdomen is rounded, giving it a short, stocky appearance known as the sprawler form. There is a small hook on the top of abdominal segments three through eight, while the hooks on segments five through seven are noticeably larger. There is a small, rear-facing spine on each side of abdominal segment eight and nine.
   Adult- This is a medium-sized dragonfly with a length of 1 5/8 to 1 13/16 inches (40 to 45 mm). Each wing is clear except for along the leading edge, which is clouded with a transparent yellowish brown. The center of each wing is marked with a small dark spot, also on the leading edge. Additionally, each hindwing is marked with a dark patch near the base. Males and females look alike, generally dark brown. The face and each side of the thorax are marked with patches of greenish yellow, and the sides of the abdomen lined with yellowish orange dashes.

This species is found around the world from Alaska east to Labrador and south to northern California and Texas, and from northern Europe east to Siberia. In Idaho, it is found near lakes, ponds, and marshes throughout the state.

This dragonfly can be found near lakes, ponds, bogs, and marshes.

Adult Flight Season:
Early April to mid-August

   Naiad- Naiads feed on a variety of aquatic insects as well as on small fish and tadpoles.
   Adult- The dragonfly feeds on small flying insects.

The naiad does particularly well in acidic bogs, and lives in the debris on the bottom of lakes, ponds, bogs, and marshes. They do not actively pursue prey but wait for it to pass by, a strategy which affords them protection from other predators. Naiads emerge as adults at night. Adults generally fly from early April to mid-August. Hunting occurs from perches on twigs or rocks. This is the only Libellula species in our area in which the males do not become pruinose. Although it does not regularly migrate in North America, this species has been known to migrate in Europe, generally in 10 to 15-year cycles. The direction of the migration varies, and the migrations are thought to be triggered by a trematode parasite (it is known that several types of parasites can cause unusual behaviors in their hosts that promote the dispersal of the parasite). This species has also been known to form large swarms in Europe, often covering 100 square miles (roughly 300 square km).

After males and females mate, the female flies singly, without the male attached, to lay her eggs. She does this by dipping the tip of her abdomen in the water while hovering just above its surface.

Populations are widespread, abundant, and secure.
Status: Unprotected nongame species
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S?

Corbet, P. S. 1999. Dragonflies: Behavior and Ecology of Odonata. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, USA, 829pp.

Logan, E. R. 1967. The Odonata of Idaho. Unpublished M. S. thesis. University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, USA, 105 pp.

Needham, J. G. and M. J. Westfall. 1955. Dragonflies of North America. University of California Press, Berkely, California, USA, 615 pp.

Paulson, D. R. 1999. Dragonflies of Washington. Seattle Audubon Society, Seattle, Washington, USA, 32 pp.

Walker, E. M. and P. S. Corbet. 1975. The Odonata of Canada and Alaska, Vol. III. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 307 pp.

Written by Mark Lung and Stefan Sommer, 2001
Photos by Dennis Paulson, 2001
Design by Ean Harker, 2001.