Minnesota Dragonfly

Elfin Skimmer

Nannothemis bella

The Elfin Skimmer is the smallest species of dragonfly in North America and the second smallest in the world. Males are bluish-grey with a white face and grey and red eyes. Females are yellow and black with red eyes, a white face, and a striped abdomen that make them resemble a wasp


Field Marks
  • Average adult size is approximately from 0.7 to 0.8 inches
  • Face is white on top and black on the bottom
  • Bluish-grey eyes with a red stipe running through
  • Light bluish-grey unmarked abdomen
  • Darker bluish-grey legs
  • Clear wings with a black stigma
  • Darker bluish-grey abdomen with the last 3 segments almost white
  • Cerci are white at the tips

Click on photos above for a close-up view.

Field Marks
  • White over black face with red striped bluish-grey eyes
  • Complex yellow and black pattern on thorax
  • Amber tinted wings
  • Black abdomen with yellow top spots on segments 3 to 7 and rings separating 8 to 10
  • Terminal appendages are yellowish, subgenital plate is scoop shaped and longer than segment 9

Click on photos above for a close-up view.

Natural History


The Elfin Skimmer is the smallest dragonfly in North America. They are not a strong flyer and spend most of their time perched on low vegetation with their wings pointing forward and down. Males can be territorial, over a small territory, and will chase away other males and also male frosted whiteface. Because of their size, color, and the striped appearance of the abdomen, female Elfin Skimmers are often mistaken for bees or wasps


Floating bogs and calcareous fens with short vegetation


Female lays eggs by dipping. Male may hover guard or hold the female in tandem while she lays eggs

Range Maps

Click on the icons above for this species' range maps

Click here for county and state checklists from Odonata Central.

Range maps and checklists courtesy of Odonata Central. Copyright © 2016 OdonataCentral. All Rights Reserved. Abbott, J.C. 2006-2018. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at www.odonatacentral.org.