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Spreadwing Damselflies Mating & Laying Eggs

10-18-13 spreadwing damselflies 019Believe it or not, there are still damselflies (and dragonflies) that are flying, mating and laying eggs in the middle of October in northern New England. Certain damselflies known as “spreadwings,” unlike most other damselflies, perch with their wings partially open. (Another tell-tale spreadwing sign is that they often perch at roughly a 45 degree angle.) Spreadwings are weak flyers, and you usually see them flying low and for short distances. When sexually mature, the males tend to spend their days perched on vegetation along a pond’s shoreline. The females, like most dragonflies and damselflies, return to the water only when ready to breed. The pictured spreadwings (Spotted Spreadwings, Lestes congener, I believe) are one of the latest species of damselflies active in the fall; these two were resting before resuming egg-laying. The male (at top of photo) grasps the female’s “neck” (to prevent other males from replacing his sperm in her) while the female uses the sharp ovipositor at the end of her abdomen to slice into emergent vegetation and lay her eggs, which eventually end up in the water when the plants die.

7 responses

  1. micky

    Where does the male insert the sperm?

    October 18, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    • The female curls her abdomen up under the male’s abdomen, and inserts the tip of it where he has placed his sperm, in the second (I think) segment of his abdomen… you can just barely see a bump just behind his thorax where his abdomen starts — that’s it, I believe.

      October 18, 2013 at 9:20 pm

  2. micky

    So he just places it there and she collects it? I guess that is when you see the “love knot”.


    October 18, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    • Yes, you’re right, that’s the “mating wheel.”

      October 18, 2013 at 11:59 pm

  3. Louise Garfield

    So has she already collected the sperm?
    Quite the flexible hindquarters!

    October 19, 2013 at 2:38 am

  4. Tom Prunier

    What is neat about the male claspers and the female locking location is that they work like a lock and key and help to separate similar species. Apparently males will attempt to “dock” with any similar female but the claspers/locking location don’t match unless it’s the correct species. The corresponding parts are evidently visibly unique and one researcher put his 8 year old to work separating them using a binocular microscope.

    October 20, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    • I knew that you could tell species apart from the males’ appendages, but I didn’t take it one step further to the lock and key concept!

      October 20, 2013 at 2:28 pm

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