Common Whitetail, La lydienne

(Plathemis lydia)

Adult size: 38-44mm

Habitat: This is a common species in the Canadian Maritimes. It can be found at virtually any slow moving or still waters with a muddy bottom and little clay, including marshes, ponds, stream pools, old beaver ponds, puddles, roadside ditches and rarely bogs.

Typical flight period: In the Canadian Maritimes, flies from at least late May to mid-October (May 24th -Nova Scotia to October 15th -Prince Edward Island).

ID hints: Young males and females of all ages are brown with a white, interrupted zig-zag pattern on the side of the abdomen. The abdomen and a small spot at the base of the hind wing in older males becomes coated in a white or very pale blue waxy coating known as pruinosity, which is the feature which gives the species its English name.

Mature male photographed at home in Riverside-Albert, NB on July 6th, 2014 with a Canon SX50HS

Common Whitetail female photographed on June 1st, 2012 near HQ at Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick

General Nature Notes, Quotes and Anecdotes: Males often patrol and pugnaciously defend a territory that ranges in size from less than 20 m2 to over 150 m2. They chiefly defend it by raising their abdomen to interlopers while patrolling or while perched and guarding the territory. A submissive male will lower its abdomen and generally allow himself to be chased out by the territory’s “owner”, but two aggressive males may go at it for hours. Females that want to lay eggs in a particular area must mate with the male that controls that territory. After mating, the female will soon commence laying. While she is doing so, the male constantly “mate-guards” her by hovering above and behind her while she is occupied. He is on the look-out for competing males, who may actually swoop down and grab the female while she is laying and mate with her again. When this happens, the new mate will actually scoop out all the eggs she was about to lay that were fertilized by the previous male! Females lay their eggs by energetically striking the water in a rhythmic fashion, about once a second. This can actually send up splashes some 30 cm into the air. Remarkably, she may lay 1000 eggs in a day and can mate every few days. This is a fascinating species to study. I have long felt that calling this wonderful dragonfly "Common Whitetail" may detract at least a little from this species' incredible life history and amazing beauty, but that is just a personal opinion.

Above: 2 pics of Common Whitetail female ovipositing in "our" pond, July 12th, 2010 (click on images to enlarge)

Common Whitetail female oviposting while the male is above and to the right mate-guarding, July 12th, 2010

Common Whitetail male mate guarding "his" female, Pelerin, NB, Canada, July 12th, 2010

Map locations for Common Whitetail

Tags: Account, Brunswick, Common, Lydienne, New, Plathemis, Species, Whitetail, lydia

Views: 171

Replies to This Discussion

Very cool documentation Denis, I agree(now that I've read your post) a beautiful species worthy of a better, more eye popping name

Thanks, Andrew! How about Day-Glo Skimmer, or Flashy Whitetail? ;)

Ha Ha Ha Yea I like the flashy whitetail or maybe Vanilla Dipped Skimmer lol

LOL, good one!

Thanks for posting this Denis. I first saw Common Whitetail from and on the boardwalk at Caribou Trail in FNP. Not only is the chalk white tail of the male striking but the wing pattern is beautiful as well!!  As for the name... Semaphore-winged Dragonfly might do.

Another great species account, Denis! Thanks so much.

Thanks Joanne and Stu. These really are amongst my favourite species to watch, as they do so much that is easily observable. The Jewelwings also have plenty to offer in that way.

That 1st image of an ovipositing female is a fantastic shot, worthy of further dissemination.
My interpretation is that you caught the female in the act of scooping up a drop of water so as to flick her eggs onto the pond's bank just above the water line.
The timing for this shot is incredible and I would be surprised if anyone else has ever captured the moment.

Fascinating observation, Tony. I will certainly look into that further. I will check with Ed Lam and a few more. Many thanks for that!

It's definitely not "Common"!!  The mating, and ovipositing are fascinating!  I agree with Tony, your images are amazing!

I haven't had the pleasure of seeing this Beauty...Thanks Denis!

Thanks, Nancy! Another half a year until we see them again, but each day that passes, that day gets nearer.

I missed this one entirely when posted ... map locations link is added to main post ... better late than never. A very late thank you for all these species accounts Denis!!!

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