My Favorite Dragonfly Genus: The Whitefaces

Because this genus is part of the skimmer family, which I’ve already blogged about, let’s call this…

Know Your Dragonflies Part 1b: Genus Leucorrhinia, the Whitefaces

It’s hard to explain why I would call these my favorite dragonflies (at least, of those I’ve identified so far). They’re small, and pretty in a subtle way, and they love boggy boreal habitats. They’re just cool! This is a genus within the family Libellulidae that contains about fifteen species, and they’re called whitefaces for one simple reason.

See his white face??? The technical term for an insect’s face is the frons. Below is another shot of the same dragonfly from another angle – you can see that he’s sitting in a spruce tree, which gives you a nice clue about the habitat (these were taken in a bog). I think this is a male Hudsonian Whiteface, Leucorrhinia hudsonica, but please correct me in the comments if I’ve got that wrong. Check out his cherry-red markings.

Most whiteface species seem to have males patterned in red or white and females patterned in yellow. Here is a male Frosted Whiteface, Leucorrhinia frigida…

…and here is a female Frosted Whiteface. Yellow markings, and I love the amber coloration at the base of the wings too.

One last photo, which is a crappy photo but I’m including it anyway for two reasons. 1) I nearly fell into a lake while taking it; this dragonfly was sitting on a lily pad several feet out into the water. 2) This one is super easy to identify; it’s a Dot-tailed Whiteface, Leucorrhinia intacta, so called because of the single bright yellow dot on its abdomen. (Also, my field guide says it’s “often found in conjunction with water-lilies,” and I love it when critters do exactly what the books say.)

I’m really pleased with how much dragonfly ID I’ve been able to learn in the last couple months just by keeping my eyes open, taking photos when I can, and combing through a field guide and various websites. Yet another reason to love living in an area so rich in lakes, bogs, and other odonate-friendly habitats!

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6 thoughts on “My Favorite Dragonfly Genus: The Whitefaces”

  1. Hi Rebecca,
    These dragonflies are great. I just discovered an accessible bog at higher elevations here on Vancouver Island, and as a result have now seen and photographed two new whitefaces for the island, the Hudsonian and the Crimson-ringed. Five more species of dragons to go and I will have photographed all 41 species that occur on the island, but two will be tough as they are accidental stragglers from the south.

    Terry

  2. I’ve been thinking of you this week. Our yard is FILLED with dragonflies (even after the state sprayed to kill mosquitoes last week, thank goodness! (The levels of EEE-Eastern Equine Encephalitis- are exceptionally high this year). We love watching them.

    Do you have a favorite field guide to dragonflies? We haven’t had much luck finding a good one.

    1. I’ve been using a book on dragonflies of the North Woods that belongs to the school where I work – it wouldn’t be much use to anyone outside the upper Midwest. Others have recommended “Dragonflies through Binoculars: A Field Guide to Dragonflies of North America” by Sid Dunkle and “Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East” by Dennis Paulson. I’m planning on picking up one or both of those eventually. There’s also bugguide.net and odonatacentral.org. I’m living proof that once you start paying attention it’s not all that hard to learn some basic dragonfly ID.

      1. Hi Rebecca and Michelle,
        I would highly recommend Paulson’s book. I own both the western and eastern guides even though I live on Vancouver Island. They are the definitive guides right now. If there is a local guide though it is a good idea to get that as well. I own a guide to B.C. dragonflies and use it extensively even though it is out of date.
        Terry

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