The Epaulet Skimmer is one of a number of dragonfly species where the mature male is predominantly blue and the female/immature male is predominantly a tan/brown colour. However it is unique amongst the Skimmers occurring on the Iberian peninsula in having a single white stripe or “epaulet” outlined in black on each side of the thorax.
These "epaulets" are clearly visible when the insect is viewed from the side, running from just above the middle leg to just below the base of the forewing, and are present in both sexes regardless of their maturity, (with the possible exception of really old males).
The photograph on the left shows a maturing male Epaulet Skimmer, (blue pruinose slowly developing), with the single white stripe on the side of the thorax arrowed in red.
The Keeled Skimmer – Orthetrum coerulescens has pale stripes on the upper surface of the thorax, but when viewed from the side they appear to run along the top edge of the thorax, from the pronotum to the forewing.
There is often a very small amber patch at the base of the hind wing which may serve to help separate the Epaulet Skimmer from the similar Southern Skimmer – Orthetrum brunneum and the Yellow-veined Skimmer – Orthetrum nitidinerve.
The photograph on the right shows the teneral male recovering from a fall into the water shortly after it had emerged from it’s larval stage in the concrete tank. In the process it had collected a lot of debris on the wings which I was fortunately able to clean off allowing the insect to make it's maiden flight.
The photograph below shows another example of the Epaulet Skimmer at a man made water body with a copulating pair in the wheel position at a fountain in the centre of Montecorto, Andalucia. The waisted abdomen of the male is clearly visible.
The Epaulet Skimmer is widespread throughout the Sahara, it’s larvae able to survive in moist sand, suggesting that it is an insect very well adapted to surviving in an arid landscape.
Family: LibellulidaeScientific name: Orthetrum chrysostigma (Burmeister, 1839)
English common name: Epaulet Skimmer
Total length: 39 to 46mm
Hind Wing length: 27 to 32mm
Flight period in Iberia: Late March to mid December
Habitat: Marshes, streams, & pools in open terrain, plus man made water bodies.
Distribution: Southern Portugal & Spain, North Africa & the Near East. Not uncommon in southern Portugal and Spain, absent from the north of the Iberian peninsula but perhaps expanding it’s range in that direction.
Similar species: Superficially similar to the Keeled Skimmer – Orthetrum coerulescens, the Southern Skimmer – O.brunneum and the Yellow-veined Skimmer – O.nitidinerve, however unlike those species the male Epaulet Skimmer has a noticeably waisted abdomen.
Many thanks to Sue Eatock for the use of the photograph of the mating pair.