During mid-summer, dragonflies emerge to dance and dart in the heat of the late afternoon. When the sun is streaming in through my back windows, I can watch a dizzying display of at least a dozen Twelve-Spotted Skimmers (Libellula pulchella) flying in spiraling patterns.
These large dragonflies are found in all 48 contiguous United States and southern Canada. They frequent wetlands and surrounding areas of vegetation near ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams.
I recently learned that the spots on the wings are used to attract mates. Further, the dark spots have another important function. Those dark spots help dragonflies stay warm in cooler locations. The spots absorb sunlight and can heat the wings by up to 2℃ or about 3.6℉.
This adaptation permits the dragonflies to expand their habitat. Unfortunately, with climate change, some dragonflies seem to be reducing the size or color of their spots, and this is confusing their potential mates. Researchers fear that some females may not be able to recognize their own species.
Interestingly, female wing spots don’t heat up as much as males. Perhaps this is because they tend to stay in the shade more frequently.
Maybe this is why I’ve seen fewer of the spotted species this year. How about you? What are you noticing?
To learn more about this spotty dilemma, you can read the paper here: https://www.pnas.org/content/118/28/e2101458118