Sympetrum vicinum
(Yellow-Legged Meadowhawk)

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

   Naiad- This is a small naiad, with a length of 1/2 to 5/8 inch (12 to 15 mm). It is mottled green and brown in color. The abdomen has several large hooks along the top, and the last two abdominal segments have a single, large, rear-facing spine on each side. This species has bigger eyes than other members of this genus.
   Adult- This is a small dragonfly, with a length of 1 3/16 to 1 3/8 inches (30 to 35 mm). The wings are mostly clear but have a small patch of yellowish to orange clouding at the base of each hindwing. Mature males are brownish black on the face and thorax and have a red abdomen, while immature males have a yellow thorax and a yellowish brown abdomen. Females have a brown thorax and a brownish red abdomen. As its common name implies, the legs of the adults are yellow.

This species has two separate populations in North America. One is found from Ontario east to Nova Scotia, extending south into the U.S. to Texas and Florida. The other population occurs in British Columbia, Washington, and Idaho. In Idaho, it is found in the northern half of the state.

This dragonfly can be found near lakes and ponds with marshy borders.

Adult Flight Season:
Early August to late October

   Naiad- Naiads feed on a wide variety of aquatic insects, such as mosquito larvae, other aquatic fly larvae, mayfly larvae, and freshwater shrimp. They will also eat very small fish and tadpoles.
   Adult- The dragonfly will eat almost any soft-bodied flying insect including mosquitoes, flies, small moths, mayflies, and flying ants or termites.

The naiads live in the debris of the bottoms of lakes and ponds. They do not actively pursue prey but wait for it to pass by, a strategy which affords them protection from other predators. The naiads emerge, or make the transition to adult dragonflies, at night. Adults fly from early August through October. This species flies later in the fall than any other species in the Northwest, with observations as late as October 29 in Idaho, and into November in Washington. The adults of this species hunt flying insects from perches on rocks or bare branches. The Latin name for this genus, Sympetrum, means "with rock" and refers to their habit of basking on rocks to absorb heat early in the day. This dragonfly is extremely abundant where it occurs, with large numbers of pairs flying and laying eggs in tandem.

The female flies with the male still attached after mating (a position called "in tandem") and lays her eggs near the shoreline of lakes and ponds by dipping the tip her abdomen on the surface of the water. Large-mouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) have been observed following mated pairs of dragonflies as they fly just above the surface, and then eating them as they touch the surface to lay eggs.

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.