Last week I noticed a dragonfly resting on my tomatoes. It was the type of dragonfly I had never seen before. I looked on the Internet and discovered it was a red saddlebags skimmer (Tranea onusta).
The Skimmer family (Libellulidae) includes our most common and conspicuous dragonflies (Anisoptera). They are unique among dragonflies for their diversity of colors, wing patterns, and habits.
Skimmers are commonly found across the continent and come in a wide array of bright colors. Red saddlebags skimmers have round, bright red patches of color on transparent wings. The placement and shape of these patches resemble the saddlebags carried by horses or mules. Males have a red body and abdomen, while females have an orange-brown body.
Unlike females of other dragonfly groups, female skimmers don’t have an ovipositor, so rather than “inserting” her eggs into the water, she jolts her fertilized eggs from her abdomen by smacking its tip on the surface of the water. Meanwhile the males, who are territorial, generally hover nearby, flying the perimeter of their territory to protect the boundaries from infringement.
Like most skimmers, this species circulates near slowly moving ponds, creeks, small streams, lagoons, and lakes. The larvae (naiads) look very different from their adult form. These young nymphs live in the water and eat aquatic insects and other aquatic animals and fish. They overwinter there and emerge to molt into their winged adult form.
These red saddlebags are generally active from late spring to mid-autumn, during the warm, sunny days of summer when birds are less likely to be active.
Note: The skimmers eat mosquitoes! Individual dragonflies eat hundreds of mosquitoes every day, and they eat them at all stages of life.
Read the articles by The BugLady: Red Saddlebags Dragonfly (Family Libellulidae)