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Blue Skimmer Dragonfly - Orthetrum caledonicum

FAMILY LIBELLULIDAE

This page contains information and pictures about Blue Skimmer Dragonflies that we found in the Brisbane area, Queensland, Australia.
 
Matured male, body length 45mm
 
The Blue Skimmer Dragonflies are sometimes known as Sky Blue Dragonflies. They are medium in size with body length 45mm. Their bodies are long and slender, matured males are powder blue in colour with tapered dark abdomen tip. Outer wings with smoky suffusion. 
 
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Female, body length 45mm                                    
 
Female are brownish grey in colour. Their wings are clear with brown colour near the wing tip. Females' body colours are also changing (details discussed below). When they are at rest, the dragonflies held out theirs wings horizontally, sometime they hold their wings below their body.  
 
Larval exuviae, 25mm      
 
The larva uses its tail to breath in water. Just before the last molting, the larva climb up from the water and emerge from the last  molting skin as an adult. The larva is a predator in water preying on small animals such as mosquitoes larva. 
 
The adult is a predator in the sky and preying on flying insects. They fly amount the low vegetations over the pond. They perch regularly. They return to the same spots after a short flight. 
 
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This is one of the most common dragonflies found in Brisbane. They can be seen on every large piece of fresh water, still or flowing, during sunny days. They can be found on temporary waters as well. They are active all year round in Brisbane.
 
 
In Brisbane there are two species of blue dragonflies which are common. At the left of the above picture is the Blue Scarlet, with similar colour and size as the Blue Skimmer at the right. They can be found at the same area. They can be distinguished by the dark thorax and wider abdomen of Blue Scarlet. In both species the female are in brownish yellow colour, the Blue Scarlet female has the black line at the middle of the boarder abdomen.
 
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The Dragonflies have the very good eye sight, still, sometimes they are still get caught in a spider web. The about picture shows a male Blue Skimmer in the spider web.
 

The Changing Colours of males

Although this species is common, sometimes we found confusing in recognizing this dragonfly. Their males and females look different. The males keep changing colours when from just emerged to matured.
 
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Teneral male
 
The males just emerged, or the teneral males, have the yellow body with dull black patterns.
 
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Maturing male with colour changing 
 
Its body will turn to light powder blue when maturing. Usually they are found hunting over the bush a few hundred meters away from the waters.
 
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Matured male
 
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Matured males have the powder blue body colour. They are found resting or flying amount the low vegetations over the pond. 
 
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Old male
 
Its broken wings show that it had been fighting with other males many times.   
 

The Changing Colours of females

 
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Teneral females 
 
Young females also have the yellow body with dull black patterns. They are usually hunting away from the waters. Only return to the waters when matured.
 
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Young female                                                        Matured female
 
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Old female 
 
Old females gradually turn into powder blue, but never reach the full colour as the male. Above pictures show the female laying eggs alone, without the attention or guarding by male. 
 

Mating

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Because this species of female laying eggs alone, she is often interrupted by other males while she was laying eggs. The above pictures show when the female was grabbed by a male and mated while she was laying eggs,  
 
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Most other species of dragonflies mate in wheel-position for a few minutes, some over half an hour. The Blue Skimmer's mating only take 2-4 seconds.

       
 
 

Reference:
1. The Australian Dragonflies - CSIRO, Watson, Theisinger & Abbey,1991, p250.
2. A Field Guide to Dragonflies of South East Queensland - Ric Nattrass, 2006, p99.
3. The Complete Field Guide to Dragonflies of Australia - CSIRO, GŁnther Theischinger and John Hawking, 2006, p266. 

 
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Last updated: March 04, 2008.