Blue September

Last month I showed you the mood of my garden (which was yellow, in case you missed it), and now it’s time to talk about the September blues. And I don’t mean this in the sense of sadness or melancholy; I’m thinking about a particular dragonfly that is especially abundant this month. Say hello to the Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum):

Male Blue-faced Meadowhawk

There are six meadowhawk species in Ohio, but this one is my favorite by far. Three of the others are difficult to identify from photos, so it’s frustrating to never know exactly which of the three I’ve photographed. The Ruby, White-faced, and Cherry-faced Meadowhawks usually get posted to iNaturalist as just “Sympetrum species” and might languish at that genus-only level forever. Although the White-faced is identifiable if you get a shot of the bright white face (which isn’t always possible). But the key to separating these species lies in details of their private parts, which usually means you need to catch them in a net and take a closer look at their undersides. I’d rather stick to just taking their photos, and I think they appreciate that. 🙂

Unidentified meadowhawk (sympetrum) species

Then there’s the Band-winged Meadowhawk, one that’s easy to identify based on the wing markings.

Band-winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum)

Finally we have the Autumn and Blue-faced meadowhawks, our only two meadowhawk species with yellow legs. The Autumn looks much like the other meadowhawks, except for those legs.

Autumn meadowhawks in mating wheel (Sympetrum vicinum)

But the Blue-faced wins my affection not only because it’s easy to identify, but because it’s beautiful! The male of this species has a red abdomen like the other meadowhawks, but take a look at the eyes and face and tell me this isn’t a pretty insect. Go on, admit it, you think this bug is pretty. It’s okay, you can say it. Nobody here will think you’re weird, I promise.

I think it looks like he just ate a big bag of blue cotton candy at the county fair, don’t you? This species is around all summer long, but their numbers peak in September and that’s when I usually go looking for them. They tend to be approachable, often perching along the edges of the walking trail and allowing me to take my time enjoying their company. The other day I almost got one of them to sit on my finger…almost.

Blue-faced meadowhawks in mating wheel

Here’s a better look at the female and her paler coloring:

Female Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Remember back in July when I showed you how dragonflies keep cool on hot days? Here’s another example of that obelisking behavior:

Blue-faced Meadowhawk in obelisk position to stay cool on a hot day

As I was writing this I was reading about the psychology of colors again. Blue can have either a positive or negative connotation, evoking calmness or sadness, depending on the person. There’s a good article about this on Verywell Mind, a wonderful place to get advice about many mental health concerns — here’s the article about blue.

I was also reminded of a wonderful song by the group Swing Out Sister. My memories of this band’s music are entwined with my time living in Tokyo in the 1980s, some of the happiest years of my life. This one is called Blue Mood, and I guarantee it’ll lift your spirits and possibly have you dancing around your house. You can find their music on Spotify and probably other music platforms, but I also enjoy watching their videos on YouTube for the full 80s experience. Enjoy!

21 comments

  1. […] Sitting on a balcony in the rain with my camera, I saw a Wandering glider (Pantala flavescens, also Globe skimmer) sheltering under palms. Tiny drops flecked its wings. From the beading of the drops it seems that the wings are water repellent. I’ve seen them before in this season. Their numbers usually peak now, between September and October. They are the commonest of dragonflies in the parts of the world where most human live (which are all the places in the world where the temperature never falls below 20 Celsius). But they are uncommon travellers, as I was told recently (by Kim Smith). […]

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  2. I’m caught up with your blog now and I’m so glad I remembered to come and read what I’d missed when I got too busy for online reaching. I don’t remember noticing those reddish orange Meadowhawks but I need to look out for them. The image of the Blue-faced meadowhaws in their mating wheel reminded me of fairies dancing. Thanks, Kim for all you do to care for Earth and for sharing your knowledge and teaching me new things.

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  3. It is my DREAM to see the blue-faced meadowhawk — there is a preserve with it about 90 minutes away — next year! Meanwhile, I can enjoy it through your stunning photos…. thank you!
    Cindy 🙂

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  4. Unfortunately dragonflies are not great travelers. I don’t know any of these Sympetrums from my part of the world. As for that unidentified one (2nd from top), don’t you see a bit of its face? Not enough for an ID, I suppose

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    • I.J., thanks for your comment. I checked iNaturalist.org and it shows over 320 species of dragon and damselflies from India, with five in the Sympetrum genus. But maybe not in your particular part of India.

      As as for dragonflies not being great travelers, you might want to read about the Wandering Glider, also called the globeskimmer because of its long migration and presence all over the world. Here’s just one article I found for you to get started: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fevo.2021.698128/full.

      Thanks for reading and taking time to leave a comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have to admit that blue-faced meadowhawk does have a lovely face! I’m a dragonfly fan anyway and noted my first one of spring flitting about our courtyard a few days ago. We’ve had (for us) a cold winter so it’s good to see things returning to signs of spring. Thanks Kim.

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  6. I believe dragonflies are beautiful! Of all the insects on earth they are my favorite. Their faces remind me of gemstones. This one looks like turquoise. They can fly backwards, see 360 degrees, iridescent wings and an extra set of wings for fairies and angels to ride upon. They have been around for 300 million years. Every culture from ancient to modern talk about them. They are magnificent. I truly enjoyed your blog.

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