Sympetrum (Tarnetrum) illotum
(Cardinal Meadowhawk)

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

   Naiad- This is a small naiad with a length of 3/4 inch (18 mm). It is mottled green and brown in color, and the abdomen is marked along the top with a pair of stripes. While the naiads of many dragonfly species are equipped with hooks and/or spines on the abdominal segments, the naiads of this species may have only one tiny, rear-facing spine on each side of abdominal segment eight or else no hooks or spines at all.
   Adult- This is a small dragonfly (but large for a Sympetrum) with a length of 1 1/2 to 1 5/8 inches (38 to 40 mm). The abdomen is broad and has the same width along its length, in contrast to the other members of its genus. Mature males are bright red on the face, thorax, and abdomen. Each side of the thorax may be marked with a pair of yellow spots. The wings have some red veins along the leading edge and are clouded with brown near the body. Females are brownish red and the wings may appear translucent golden brown. Immature males are brown instead of red and the spots on the thorax are white rather than yellow.

This species is found from southern British Columbia down the west coast of the U.S. all the way to Chile and Argentina in South America. In Idaho, it occurs in the northern half of the state.

This dragonfly can be found near ponds and lakes.

Adult Flight Season:
Mid-May to mid-August

   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 debris on the bottom of ponds and lakes. 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. Although records for Idaho are sparse, the adults are believed to fly from mid-May to mid-August. Hunting occurs from perches on rocks or bare branches. This species has a characteristic perching posture, allowing their wings to droop below their thorax. 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 species is one of the first dragonflies to emerge each year.

After males females mate, the female typically flies alone, without the male attached, to lay her eggs in lakes and ponds. She does this by dipping the tip her abdomen on the surface of the water. Occasionally the female flies with the male still attached after mating (a position called "in tandem").

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.