The other day I braved the mosquitoes, deer flies, 95F temperature, and blazing sun to sit motionless in a Michigan sedge meadow and wait for flying insects to alight nearby. I was rewarded with some interesting specimens, especially dragonflies and damselflies. Perhaps the most visually stunning was this meadowhawk dragonfly (Odonata: Libellulidae: Sympetrum sp.).
The most obvious way to distinguish dragonflies of the family Libellulidae is to look at the rear wings near the body. The veins form a distinct “foot” shape in this area. If you look closely at the photo above, you can discern this shape on the rear right wing next to the body. The top of the “foot” is facing the body, and the “toes” are pointed towards the rear of the insect.
There were a lot of these meadowhawks buzzing around this wet meadow, probably mating and hunting other flying insects. Young dragonfly nymphs are aquatic, and the adults seldom stray far from water. Both the larvae and adults are predaceous on other insects, and often consume pests like mosquitoes. Since they’re beautiful in appearance, don’t bite people, and eat pest insects, they can be considered rather beneficial to humans.