black saddlebags

(Tramea lacerata)

Conservation Status
black saddlebags
Photo by Nancy Herfert
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed


Black saddlebags is a medium-sized to large skimmer. It is common in southeastern Minnesota, rare in the forested northeast, and uncommon or absent in the rest of the state. Adults are 1 to 23 16 long and have a wingspan of 3¾ to 4. Females are larger than males. The body is teardrop-shaped and streamlined.

The thorax is brown with a black oval spot on each side. The upperside is densely covered with long, straight hairs.

The abdomen on males is mostly black. On females and juveniles there are whitish or yellowish spots on the upper (dorsal) side of abdominal segments 3 through 7 (S3–S7), the spots on S6 and S7 especially large. On the mature male these spots fade to black except on S7 and often S6.

The forewing is slender and clear except for a small, black cell (stigma) on the leading edge near the tip. The hindwing is much broader than the forewing. It has a black stigma and an irregular but consistently shaped black spot covering the inner quarter of the wing. The shape is often compared to a theater comedy mask in profile. The inner margin of the hindwing is rounded, not notched. The forewing and hindwing triangles are a different shape.

The face on males is black, on females and juveniles yellowish-brown. The compound eyes meet along a long margin at the top of the head. The hind margin of the compound eye is straight or only very slightly lobed.

The legs are black.




Total length: 1 to 23 16

Wingspan: 3¾ to 4


Similar Species


Ponds, lakes, marshes, backwaters of broad rivers, ditches, and sometimes temporary ponds, all with submerged vegetation




Early June through September




Males sometimes feed in large swarms.


Life Cycle


Mating takes place on branched of trees near water. With the male hovering nearby, the female deposits eggs, one at a time, by dipping the tip of her abdomen in slow-moving or stagnant water.


Naiad Food


Aquatic insect larvae and tadpoles.


Adult Food


Small flying insects


Distribution Map



7, 18, 24, 27, 29, 30, 82.




Uncommon to rare



Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies)  


  Infraorder Anisoptera (dragonflies)  




Libellulidae (skimmers)  


Tramea (saddleback gliders)  





Common Names


black saddlebag skimmer

black saddlebags












In plants, the portion of the female part of the flower that is receptive to pollen. In Lepidoptera, an area of specialized scent scales on the forewing of some skippers, hairstreaks, and moths. In other insects, a thickened, dark, or opaque cell on the leading edge of the wing.






Visitor Photos

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Susan M.



    black saddlebags      

Nancy Herfert

  Is this a Widow Skimmer? I’ve never seen this in my yard in Plymouth, MN before. If you’re able to help me ID this, I’d appreciate it. Thank you.   black saddlebags  
        black saddlebags  








Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Black Saddlebags Dragonfly, "Saddle Bags" - September 14, 2013
Don Gagnon

Published on Sep 19, 2013

Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata) Dragonfly, Butterfly Garden, Mass Audubon Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, 1280 Horseneck Road, Westport, Massachusetts, Saturday morning, September 14, 2013, 9:42 AM - Canon PowerShot SX50 HS MVI_47322

Music: "Saddle Bags-Teletunez" by Teletunez (Other, 1:20)

  Weird Bug with "6-Wings": "Black Saddlebags Dragonfly"

Published on Aug 21, 2011

The "black saddlebags" are really part of the lower pair of wings, so really it is just 4 wings, that looks like 6.

  Female Black Saddlebags Dragonfly Release in Pleasantville, New York
Melvin Wei

Published on Sep 20, 2012

My father caught a female black saddlebags dragonfly and released it in this video on a lemon plant. The leaves were too slippery so the dragonfly struggled to get a foothold and fell off, but before it reached the ground it started a slow ascent upwards and flew up to about 10 meters and beyond above the ground, disappearing into the the cloudy sky...

Black saddlebags (Tramea lacerata) dragonflies are fairly common. Adults, especially the males, congregate in swarms. Some populations of this dragonfly undertake migrations.

  Tramea lacerata
Urban Life

Published on Sep 24, 2016

black saddlebags skimmer

  Tramea lacerata (Dragonfly Nymph) feeding on a small Gambusia.

Published on Aug 17, 2013

Just a little Macro Video practice, taken on a white background on my desk at home. If you have any doubts about how horrifying dragonfly nymphs can be to small fish, tadpoles, or other invertebrates... well... doubt no more.




Visitor Sightings

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Be sure to include a location.
  Susan M.

Location: Ramsey County


black saddlebags  
  Nancy Herfert

Location: Plymouth, MN

Is this a Widow Skimmer? I’ve never seen this in my yard in Plymouth, MN before. If you’re able to help me ID this, I’d appreciate it. Thank you.

black saddlebags  
  John Valo

The dragonfly in your photos is a black saddlebags (Tramea lacerata).





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