Lestes rectangularis

Slender Spreadwing

Lestes rectangularis, Slender Spreadwing

Family: Lestidae

Length: typically 38-52 mm


Identifying Lestes rectangularis is pretty straightforward. The abdomen is unusually long and slender (most remarkably in the male), and the wings are only about half as long as the abdomen. Also, this is the only Spreadwing in our region in which the male lacks a white tip on the abdomen.

The shoulder stripes are bluish-green in the male, while in the female they are grayish to yellow or brown.

One key trait of Lestes rectangularis, seen in the first two photos on this page, is that the wingtips have pale venation.

Lestes rectangularis, Slender Spreadwing,

Biologists at Oberlin College studied the life history of Lestes rectangularis from two small ponds in northern Pennsylvania (Gower and Kormondy, 1963). They set out mesh cages in the ponds, to capture eclosing damselflies. In both 1960 and 1961, the first emergences were on June 22, though the authors noted that several nearby ponds not in the study had adult Lestes rectangularis a few days earlier.

Use of the emergence cages revealed that females outnumbered males at eclosion at a ratio of 2:1. (Borror in 1934 had noted this same ratio in another damsel, Argia moesta).

Some 21-24 days after emergence, some Lestes rectangularis were mature and engaged in mating and ovipositing. Females oviposited alone.

The authors found that the adult longevity in this species was "at least six weeks."

In West Virginia you're likely to encounter the Slender Spreadwing beginning in May, and the species remains on the wing some six months, until the arrival of cold weather. Ponds, wetlands, lakes, and calm streams make up the favored habitats.

Lestes rectangularis is common in the Mountain State, and can probably be found in every county.

Lestes rectangularis, Slender Spreadwings, mating damselflies

Slender Spreadwing immature

Above: A mating pair.

Left: Immature Slender Spreadwings are predominantly bronzy.

Insects of West Virginia