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Roseate Skimmer

Orthemis ferruginea

Roseate Skimmer, Orthemis ferruginea, photo © by Pete Moulton

This adult male was observed and photographed by Pete Moulton 2010.

The body of the male Roseate Skimmer with its very distinctive maroon-red coloration, is unlikely to be confused with any other species. It is a common species from the southern United States through the Neotropics inhabiting areas near shallow ponds and canals.

This is primarily a Neotropical species, which before the 1930's was known to occur in the US only in southern Florida. Since then, the species has expanded its range explosively, so that now it commonly occurs throughout the southern third of the USA. In Arizona they fly abundantly from July through the fall. They'll accept almost any aquatic habitat, as long as mud-bottomed open water is available for larval development. They're particularly numerous at the Gilbert Water Ranch, but can be observed at many other locations also.

The scientific name, Orthemis ferruginea, refers to the rusty abdominal coloration of the females and immatures. Unlike many other Libellulids, Roseates don't seem to obelisk for purposes of thermoregulation, instead moving into shaded areas when the sunlight becomes too intense. There's a very similar species, known as the Carmine Skimmer, O. discolor, which occurs mainly in southeastern Texas, but which has been recorded in central Arizona on occasion. The Carmine differs in its red eyes and face and redder (less pruinose) abdomen; Carmine's thorax contrasts less with the abdominal color (this is variable), and lacks all traces of the dark spotting on the lowest part of the thoracic sides. In fact, the two species can appear so similar that John Abbott considers the presence or absence of those dark thoracic markings the best feature to separate them. -- Pete Moulton

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