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Libellula lydia or Plathemis lydia


Common Whitetail

Libellula Lydia

(order:Odonata family:Libellulidae)

photo taken by Jocelyn Smith-Pfannenstiel

(Kansas: Sedgwick County: Great Plains Nature Center:37 44'N/ 97 15'W on a path September 1 2011)

Diagnostic- Both sexes are around 6 cm long with a chunky tail. The face and legs are brown.

Males have thick bands of brown running down the middle of their forewing and hindwing. A smaller band of brown is seen at the attachment with the thorax on both wings. Young adult males tail's are powder blue as they age the tail turns white. The color is actually a waxy covering called pruinosity that develops with age. 

Females have three spots of brown on each of  their wings. Sometimes they are mistaken for a Twelve-Spotted Skimmer. The abdomen is brown with white hatch marks on the side. The immature males  coloration is similar to adult females but, the wing pattern of adult males.

Naiads are 2.5 cm long with a dark green or brown body.

Male Libellula Lydia

Female Libellula Lydia

Immature male Libellula Lydia

Libellula Lydia naiad

Diet-Adults and naiads are predators. Adults feed on small flying insects. Larvae feed on small aquatic invertebrates and vertebrates.

Distribution-Found in 48 states and all the way South to Mexico. Also found in Canada

Distribution Map of Libellula Lydia

Habitat-Ponds, lakes, marshes, streams, can also be found some distance away from the water.

Adult Natural History-They can be seen hovering over standing or slow water. Or perched horizontally on the ground. The adults fly from mid Jun to August.

Odonates are hemimetabolous. Development is in three stages egg, naiad, adult. During development the naiad undergoes multiple molts. When ready the naiad will climb out on vegetation for its final molt into an adult. The young adult will take 1 to 2 weeks to hardened and form color.

The white on the abdomen of males is displayed as a territorial threat. The females oviposits up to 1000 eggs near vegetation by dipping their abdomen several times into the water. During this the male guards the female by hovering above.

The naiads are tolerant of pollution and low oxygen. They do not pursue prey instead they wait for it to swim by. Naiads emerge at night to avoid predation.  

Common Whitetail (Libellulidae: Plathemis lydia) Male

Plathemis lydia, "Common Whitetail" Dragonfly Clip #013

Video of a Female Libellula Lydia

Conservation Status: Stable


A Selection of Massachusetts Dragonflies and Damselflies:

Odes for Beginners:

Insect Identification for the casual observer:


Corbet, Phillip S. 1999. Dragonflies:behavior and ecology of Odonata.Cornstock Pub Associates. Ithaca,NY.

Mitchell, Forest Lee. 2005. A dazzle of dragonflies.Texas A&M University Press. College Station

Marshall, Steven A. 2006. Insects:their natural history and diversity: with a photographic guide to insects of eastern North America. Firefly Books Buffalo, NY

Submitted by:Jocelyn Smith-Pfannenstiel

Wichita State University
Generated on 2011. This website is continuously updated.
Comments can be sent to Mary Liz Jameson.
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