Nebraska Dragonflies and Damselflies

Northern Spreadwing

Lestes disjunctus

Selys, 1862

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The Common Spreadwing (Lestes disjunctus) was recently split into two species: Northern Spreadwing (Lestes disjunctus) and Southern Spreadwing (Lestes australis). Most individuals occurring in Nebraska are generally thought to be Southern Spreadwings. Northern Spreadwings are uncommon and have been found only in a few northern counties. The two species are very similar and difficult to tell apart. The Northern Spreadwing is slightly darker, smaller and flies later. Examination of the male's cerci or the female's ovipositor is a more reliable method of identifying the species, although the differences are subtle. To make matters worse, male Northern Spreadwings closely resemble Sweetflag Spreadwings.

The male Northern Spreadwing is mostly black with pale green shoulder stripes and pale lower legs. The face is pale blue and the eyes are bright blue. Abdominal segments 9 and 10 are pruinose (whitish).On both sexes the back of the head is black. Female Northern Spreadwings look very much like female Slender Spreadwings, which are a little longer and have yellow wingtips and feet.

Uncommon. This is a transcontinental species occurring mostly north of Nebraska.The Nebraska records are restricted to northern counties but in the same habitat as Southern Spreadwing. Northern Spreadwing emerges later in the year than Southern Spreadwing but there is an overlap of the flight periods. There are records of Southern Spreadwing from several northern counties, and in Sheridan County they were abundant at Smith Lake, but there seem to be no records of the two species present in the same marsh.

Northern Spreadwing
Northern Spreadwing male
Common Spreadwing map

Green indicates accepted county record (specimen or photograph).
Yellow indicates sight record only.

Size: 33-43mm (1.3-1.7 in)

Habitat: permanent still or slowly-moving waters having emergent vegetation

Great Plains Range: NE, SD, ND, NM, CO, WY, MT, MN

Flight season: early to late July

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