- Photo(s): Ned Harris, www.flickr.com/photos/ned_harris
The Flame Skimmer is a large robust bright orange dragonfly with extensive amber color in the wings.
Dragonflies and damselflies are in the same taxonomic order, Odonata, and are often called odonates. Several species of each occur in Sabino Canyon on a regular basis.
One of the most common dragonflies at Sabino is the Flame Skimmer. The Flame Skimmer is a large robust bright orange dragonfly with extensive amber color in the wings. Males have a carrot-orange body and the amber coloration continues uniformly about half way out the wing. Females are browner and the orange in the wing is restricted to the forward edges, extending nearly to the wing tip.
Males perch over or near water and make frequent brief flights, often returning to the same perch. Territorial males have little tolerance for each other and often participate in acrobatic chases driving an intruder from favorite perches or away from a prospective mate.
After mating, the female flies singly, without the male attached, to lay her eggs. She does this by dipping the tip of her abdomen in shallow water while hovering just above the water’s surface in order to lay her eggs.
The eggs then hatch into naiads. Most of a dragonfly’s life is spent in the naiad form, beneath the water’s surface, using extendable jaws to catch other invertebrates (often mosquito larvae) or even vertebrates such as tadpoles and fish. The naiad is fairly large, with a maximum length of 1.12 inches. The abdomen is rounded giving it a short, stocky appearance. The naiads live in mud on the bottom of the stream. They do not actively pursue prey but wait for it to pass by, a strategy which affords them some protection from other predators. Naiads emerge as adults at night. Adults generally fly from March through December in Arizona.
The adults will eat almost any soft-bodied flying insect including mosquitoes, flies, butterflies and moths. This species is found throughout the southwestern United States.
This photograph of an adult male Flame Skimmer was taken in October 2010 adjacent to Bear Bridge in lower Sabino.