Libellula luctuosa

Widow Skimmer

Family: Libellulidae

Length: typically 41-49 mm


In many parts of West Virginia one encounters the "big three" of skimmers. These are three species that are large, widespread across the region, and found in large numbers from Spring through Fall. The Twelve-Spotted Skimmer, the Common Whitetail, and the Widow Skimmer make up this triumvirate.

The mature male Widow Skimmers have wings like no other dragonfly in our region, with an outer band of white on each of the four wings, and a larger band of brown in close to the body.

Widow Skimmer, Libellula luctuosaThe brown abdomen becomes increasingly whitish as the dragonfly gets older. The eyes are dark brown to black.

Immature males and females have the prominent brown banding on the wings, but lack the white. Their abdomens are brown with a yellow stripe running down each side. (Others describe the abdomen as yellow with brown stripes on the tops and on each side.)

Very common at ponds and lakes, the Widow Skimmers are also found at some slow-moving streams. The species may also wander quite a bit away from water, so that you may even find them hunting in a mountainside meadow. Only a few under-collected counties in West Virginia have no records of Widow Skimmers.

Studies of this species have shown that males defend a territory of about 250 square yards, each defending a favored perch. It is fun to watch the males spar and joust with each other and hear their wings clash.

Widow Skimmer, Libellula luctuosa
The face and mouthparts of the Widow Skimmer are mostly black with some lighter brown areas.  


Widow Skimmer, Libellula luctuosa
Female and immature male Widow Skimmers have the brown bands on the wings, but not the white banding. A prominent yellow stripe runs down each side of the abdomen. Females have brown wing tips.

Insects of West Virginia