11 Types of Dragonflies Found in Manitoba (2024)

What kinds of dragonflies can you find in Manitoba?

Types of dragonflies in Manitoba

Dragonflies are easy to recognize by their long, slender bodies and distinctively narrow wings. They often live around water, but these adaptable creatures also inhabit other areas.

There are at least 5,000 species of dragonflies in the world! Since it would be impossible to list all of the ones in Manitoba in this article, I chose the most common and exciting species to share with you today. 🙂

You will also notice a similar type of insect, the damselfly, included in this list. Although it can be hard to tell these two apart, there are some key differences to look for.

  • First, dragonflies are usually larger and thicker in body, whereas damselflies are thin and twiglike.
  • Second, dragonflies hold their wings out from their bodies while resting. Conversely, damselflies fold them back against their bodies.

11 Dragonflies in Manitoba:


#1. Blue Dasher

  • Pachydiplax longipennis

Types of dragonflies in Manitoba

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 1-1.5 in long.
  • Males are vibrant blue with yellow-striped thoraces and metallic green eyes.
  • Females are less colorful and have similar striped thoraces, brown and yellow striped abdomens, and red eyes.

Blue Dashers are one of the most common dragonflies in Manitoba.

You’re most likely to find them around calm or slow-moving bodies of water, including lakes, ponds, marshes, ditches, and slow rivers and streams.

Blue Dashers are voracious predators capable of eating hundreds of insects each day! They have fast reflexes and incredible eyesight. Their bulging, round eyes are composed of 30,000 facets, each seeing in a different direction. Combined, the facets allow these dragonflies to see in nearly every direction. Their two independent sets of wings enable them to change direction quickly and to hover in place when necessary.

As adults, they predominately feed on small flying insects like mosquitoes, moths, flies, and mayflies. They catch up to 95% of the prey they pursue, making them one of Earth’s most efficient predators. Both males and females are aggressive toward other dragonflies.

The larval dragonflies, called naiads or nymphs, remain in the water for up to two years. While in this stage, they feed on aquatic insects, tadpoles, and even tiny fish. They’re well camouflaged and often hide in aquatic vegetation until they spot prey. Adults have a much shorter lifespan than naiads and die after only a few weeks.


#2. Common Whitetail

  • Plathemis lydia

Types of dragonflies in Manitoba

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 1.7 to 1.9 in long.
  • Males are chalky blue with a single, broad, dark band on each wing.
  • Females have brown bodies with a row of yellowish, triangular marks on each side of their abdomen and three evenly spaced dark blotches on each wing.

Common Whitetails are easy dragonflies to find in Manitoba.

If you spend time near ponds, marshes, and other slow-moving bodies of water, you’ll likely spot one. They zoom above the water feeding on mosquitoes and other small flying insects. Common Whitetails also spend a lot of time perching, and you may spot them resting on vegetation or occasionally even on the ground near the water’s edge.

Males are surprisingly feisty and highly territorial! They guard and patrol a section of the water’s edge and warn off other males using their white abdomen in threat displays. These territories are essential because they are where a female mate will lay her eggs.

The naiads or nymphs that hatch from the eggs receive no parental care or guarding. Unfortunately, they’re an abundant and favorite food source for fish, frogs, birds, and other aquatic insects and have up to a 99% mortality rate.


#3. Autumn Meadowhawk

  • Sympetrum vicinum

Types of dragonflies in Manitoba

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 1.2-1.4 in long.
  • Males are bright cherry red.
  • Females are yellow as young but mature to red and tan.

These dragonflies in Manitoba emerge later than many others.

Autumn Meadowhawks usually become active in early summer, and they’re most common during the summer and fall. You may be able to spot adults into November or until there is a hard freeze.

Look for these dragonflies near marshes, ponds, and slow-moving streams. They have a voracious appetite and are capable predators, feeding on pests like moths, mosquitoes, mayflies, flies, flying ants, and termites. They generally perch and then fly out after prey that comes close. Researchers believe that they catch 97% of the insects they pursue!

They’re a unique dragonfly species because the males aren’t territorial and are usually very tolerant of other males. This apparent friendliness is undoubtedly due to their unusual mating system. Autumn Meadowhawks pair up away from the water in the forest. Because of the forest’s privacy, there isn’t as much need for individual territories.


#4. Blue-fronted Dancer

  • Argia apicalis

Types of dragonflies in Manitoba

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 1.3-1.6 in long.
  • Males have light blue eyes, blue thoraces, and brown abdomens with blue sides and tips.
  • Females vary in color and may be blue, brown, turquoise, or grayish-black.

These damselflies in Manitoba are named for their elegant flight.

They’re charming to watch as they flit, flutter, and bounce through the air around ponds, streams, creeks, and rivers. You may see their attractive blue coloring better as they rest on nearby shrubs, grass, logs, and branches.

Male Blue-footed Dancers spend much more time over the water as they guard and patrol small territories. Females will only visit their territory when they’re ready to mate and instead spend their time flying over grassy areas or in forests.

Larval Blue-fronted Dancers, called naiads or nymphs, are incredible aquatic predators. They feed on worms, insects, and even small fish. Eventually, they will crawl out of the water, metamorphose into their adult phase, and repeat the reproduction cycle.


#5. Familiar Bluet

  • Enallagma civile

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 1.1-1.5 in long.
  • Males are bright blue with a dark head featuring two blue tear-shaped spots on the top and black patches along the top of their bodies.
  • Females have a similar pattern but are generally light brown rather than blue.

Familiar Bluets are less picky about habitat than other damselflies and dragonflies in Manitoba. The males of this species are generally easy to spot and are the brightest of the blue damselflies! They need water to complete their lifecycle but use any water source, including muddy puddles, lakes, bogs, marshes, salt marshes, streams, creeks, rivers, and ponds. They quickly take advantage of any new wet habitat that they find.

Despite their charming and almost delicate appearance, Familiar Bluets are formidable predators. They will feed on virtually any soft-bodied insect that crosses their path. These include small moths, mosquitoes, flies, mayflies, flying ants, and termites.

You’ll likely spot male Familiar Bluets over the water, where they spend much of their time on lengthy patrols to guard their territory. Females will visit them when they are ready to mate but spend much of their time in nearby woodlands.


#6. Common Green Darner

  • Anax junius

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults grow up to 3 in long.
  • Both sexes have unmarked green thoraces, bull’s eye marks on their faces, and clear wings that often become amber-tinted with age.
  • Males have bluish-purple abdomens with a black stripe down the middle.
  • Females may appear like males or have reddish-brown abdomens.

Green Darners are common dragonflies to find in Manitoba.

Named for their resemblance to darning needles, these dragonflies are nearly impossible to miss! They’re also one of the largest dragonfly species alive today.

Unlike many dragonflies, some populations of Common Green Darners migrate. Particularly in winter, they travel as far south as Panama. They’re common summertime residents of the northern US and southern Canada, and occasionally, vagrant individuals are spotted well outside their normal range. They’ve been known to show up as far away as Japan, Russia, Bermuda, France, and the UK! Researchers suspect these are individuals who were blown off course during storms.

Common Green Darner migration is complex and challenging to study. Researchers now suspect a full migration takes place over at least three generations. The first generation emerges in spring in the southern part of the range and travels north in the summer. The second generation emerges in the northern part of their range in summer and migrates south during the fall. The third generation emerges in the southern part of the range during the winter and doesn’t migrate. Then the cycle begins again with the next generation.

When researchers equipped Common Green Darners with micro radio transmitters, they found that these big dragonflies traveled about 10 miles per hour and up to 87 miles in a single day!


#7. Variegated Meadowhawk

  • Sympetrum corruptum

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 1.63-1.92 in long.
  • Males are dark brown or black with red faces and eyes and bright red, pink, or golden brown abdomens.
  • Females are similar in appearance but duller in color; gray and yellow often replace the males’ red, and they have brownish and lavender eyes.

Variegated Meadowhawks are some of the flashiest dragonflies in Manitoba!

You’ll likely spot this ornate species around still or slow-moving waters, including ponds, swamps, lakes, and streams. They’re agile predators that feed on soft-bodied flying insects, including mosquitoes, flies, small moths, mayflies, and flying ants or termites.

These insects are savvy travelers and navigators. They’re a migratory species of dragonfly that completes their migration over a few generations. They travel into the northern US and Canada and migrate as far south as Honduras and Belize. They usually appear in northern areas in the spring, and the next generation departs southward in late summer.

Variegated Meadowhawks fly low during migration and navigate visually by the sun. Researchers believe this unique approach may give them an advantage over other migratory species as climate change continues to affect weather patterns.

Despite their migratory nature, male Variegated Meadowhawks are extremely territorial. They fly low, patrolling sections of open water and occasionally perch while watching for intruders. They will chase out other male Variegated Meadowhawks and other species.


#8. Band-winged Meadowhawk

  • Sympetrum semicinctum

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 1.1-1.4 in long.
  • Males have bright red abdomens with black markings on the sides, dark red faces, and red eyes.
  • Females are greenish-yellow or orange with red and green eyes and blackish markings on their abdomens.

These bright dragonflies in Manitoba are often easy to spot perched near ponds, marshes, bogs, and fens. They prefer water sources with a gentle flow, plenty of weedy growth, and tall grasses.

Band-winged Meadowhawks are incredibly skillful fliers that can move backward and forward, hover, and fly straight up and down. Males perch high above the water and fly out on short patrols. When they’re ready to mate, females visit these areas and pair up with a male.

The eggs hatch into the larval stage, and these naiads live under the water in areas with dense aquatic vegetation. From their hiding places in the vegetation, the naiads grab passing prey, including mosquito larvae, mayfly larvae, other fly larvae, small fish, and tadpoles. The larval phase can last up to two years. When they’re mature, the naiads leave the water, crawling out to shed their skin and metamorphosing into adults.


#9. Eastern Forktail

  • Ischnura verticalis

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 0.87-1.18 in long.
  • Males are green with black-striped bodies that have bright blue tips.
  • Females are bluish-gray.

Eastern Forktails are common damselflies in Manitoba.

You’ll find them around almost any wetland, marsh, pond, or slow-moving stream within their range. They’re particularly fond of water bodies with grassy or weedy edges.

Despite their small size, Eastern Forktails are aggressive predators that feed on other flying insects. They will chase competitors away and occasionally even prey on other damselflies as large as themselves! Surprisingly, this aggressive behavior is more common in females.

Males spend most of their time around ideal breeding sites, perching in and patrolling areas with dense vegetation. Females are also common around the water’s edge. The females are monogamous and mate just once in their life. Despite this, they’re still incredibly productive and can lay thousands of eggs!


#10. Chalk-fronted Corporal

  • Ladona julia

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 1.6-1.8 in long.
  • Males are black with pale shoulder bars and clear wings.
  • Females are dark brown with light gray on the front of their abdomens and clear wings.

Chalk-fronted Corporals like slow-moving water with plenty of emergent vegetation for mating and egg laying. You’ll commonly spot them around ponds, swamps, marshes, lakes, and bogs. When they’re not mating, they fly in sunny patches of nearby forests.

These dragonflies in Manitoba often perch horizontally on the shoreline or floating objects in the water. From their perches, they hunt, flying upward to grab various soft-bodied flying insects, including mosquitoes, mayflies, flies, moths, butterflies, and flying ants. If you’re on or near the water, it’s not uncommon to have these dragonflies swooping around you. Don’t worry! They’re just grabbing the mosquitoes that you’ve attracted.

Larval dragonflies, called nymphs or naiads, live in decaying vegetation at the bottom of the water. They feed on insect larvae and freshwater shrimp. When they mature, they emerge from the water at night, shed their skin and metamorphose into adults.


#11. Twelve-spotted Skimmer

  • Libellula pulchella

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 2-2.2 in long.
  • Males are brownish with twelve black wing spots (three per wing) and eight white wing spots (two per wing).
  • Females are brown with yellow stripes down their abdomens and 12 black wing spots (three per wing).

Like most dragonflies in Manitoba, Twelve-spotted Skimmers like weedy, slow-moving water.

You can spot them around lakes with marshy shorelines and slow-moving streams. Individuals usually have a favorite perch. If one flies from a perch near you, you should move closer to the location and remain still. Odds are they’ll return to land again in a few minutes, and you can get a closer look!

Twelve-spotted Skimmers also visit nearby fields, prairies, and clearings to hunt, and some populations migrate. They are strong fliers that feed on almost any soft-bodied flying insect, including mosquitoes, flies, small moths, mayflies, flying ants, or termites.

Males often get into territorial disputes, making vertical loops in the air. Thankfully these disputes don’t result in physical harm. The male that can circle the other wins the territory.


Which of these damselflies and dragonflies have you seen in Manitoba?

Leave a comment below!


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