Minnesota Dragonfly

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

Libellula pulchella

Male twelve-spotted skimmers are easily recognizable even from a distance, due to heir large size and striking wing pattern. Males have brown and bluish gray bodies with alternating black and white spots on their wings. Females are less colorful with brown and yellow bodies and black spots on their wings.


Field Marks
  • Average adult size is approximately 2.0 inches
  • Brown eyes and face
  • Brown thorax with two thoracic stripes
  • Thoracic stripes are yellow in immature skimmers and are covered with gray-white pruinose with age
  • Abdomen brown and yellow striped covered by blue-gray pruinose in mature males
  • Brown and yellow abdominal pattern often partially still visible though the pruinose
  • Wings have 3 black spots on each (base, nodus, tip) with two white pruinose spots in between
  • Immature males look very similar to females

Click on photos above for a close-up view.

Field Marks
  • Eyes reddish-brown
  • Face yellow and brown
  • Brown thorax with two yellow thoracic strips
  • Brown abdomen with two continuous yellow stripes running on outside edges on top
  • Three black spots on each wing (base, nodus, tip)

Click on photos above for a close-up view.

Similar Species

The male twelve-spotted skimmer is easily identified. There are no other dragonflies that are the same size, color, and have a similar pattern of black and white spots on their wings. Females are a bit trickier.

Common Whitetail: Although there is a difference in size between the female twelve-spotted skimmer (average around 2") and the female common whitetail (average around 1.7") both are brown and yellowish with a similar pattern on the wings. The main difference between the two are the abdominal topspots which are continuous and form two straight line on the twelve-spotted and are diagonal and forma zig zag line on the whitetail.

Click on the photo to see side by side comparisons of the two species.

Prince Baskettail: Both male and female prince baskettails also have black spots at the base, nodus and tip of each of their wings, like the female twelve-spotted skimmers. That is about where the similarities end. The prince baskettail is much larger with some individuals over an inch longer. They also have no thoracic stripes and a thinner abdomen without the yellow stripes that the female twelve-spotted skimmer has.

Click on the photo to see side by side comparisons of the two species.

Natural History


Males often patrol a territory along a shoreline. Will chase any type of dragonfly from their territory. Flight is typically a combination of hovering and darting. Will also perch pennant style on a branch or stick near the water.


Ponds and lakes with emergent vegetation. Also slow streams and occasionally bogs


Mating takes place in the air. Female lays eggs by tapping her abdomen into water typically near vegetation. Males may hover gaurd in places where the population is low.

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.