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Rhyothemis variegata

October 11, 2011

Female Common Picturewing  (Rhyothemis variegata) on a riverbank in Allapuzha, Kerala. From a distance these dragonflies are easy to mistake for butterflies due to their fluttering flight-patterns. Each individual has a unique pattern on his or her wings, but males have more prominent yellow patches than females.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 11, 2011 7:09 PM

    Beautiful photo and bug! I’d like to see one of those fluttering in person. I don’t know so much about dragonflies — do you know if there are similar species in North America that flutter like butterflies?

    • October 12, 2011 8:35 PM

      Thanks for the comments Michael! You can actually see a full-size image if you click on the hyperlinked photograph, the detail is even greater than in the banner, but since I don’t use a macro lens it’s a little blurry.

      As for North American counterparts, I’ve actually only become an enthusiast during my time in India, so from firsthand experience I can’t give you any valid information. However, if you compare the wings of this species with those of more typical dragonflies, you’ll notice that the hindwings are much more broad, and almost triangular. The thorax and abdomen isn’t remarkably unique, so we can deduce that it’s the wings’ structure that gives them their unusual flight pattern.

      Although I realize that this won’t be much help in actually finding and identifying any similar species, it should make it possible to follow leads – if you see a picture of a North American dragonfly with similarly shaped wings, I think it’d be very likely that they also can be mistaken for butterflies from a distance.


  2. October 11, 2011 7:11 PM

    Just noticed the detail (in the header image). That’s gorgeous, it’s like stained glass…

    • October 14, 2011 8:44 PM

      Hey Michael, just following up here; I was browsing through google images and found this picture.

      I don’t have an actual ID on it, but the image may lead you to some worthwhile information.

      • October 14, 2011 10:18 PM

        Hi Milo,
        Thanks for the follow-up! You know, it just occurred to me, I can match up the family name (Libellulidae) and look on for any close No. American relatives! No members of genus Rhyothemis are over here but genus Tramea, the Saddlebags, apparently also known as “Dancing Gliders” (for their oviposition technique), have similarly shaped if not so spectacularly colored wings. This is a nice dorsal shot of a Black Saddlebags (how appropriately named!):

        Fall has settled in pretty well here in New England, but I’ve got a lead on fluttering dragons now for future explorations!

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