Aquatic Insects of Michigan

by Ethan Bright, Museum of Zoology Insect Division and School of Natural Resources and Environment
University of Michigan

Toggle Menu

Erythemis Hagen, 1861 (Libellulidae) (Pondhawks) of Michigan - Identification

Of the 8 species of this primarily Neotropical genus found north of Mexico, one widely distributed species - Erythemis simplicicollis (Say, 1839) - occurs in Michigan, most commonly in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula.

Adults are moderate in size, greenish in appearance. Clear-winged, with a greenish face and black and green banded abdomen that fades in aging males. Legs are spiny. Nymphs are small and stocky larvae, often collected from loose, fine organic detritus in which they conceal themselves. Nymphs are easily distinguished from other Michigan libellulid nymphs by the decurved cerci and paraprocts, their prominently striped green and brown eyes (this striping remains noticeable in specimens preserved in alcohol for long periods of time), lack of mid-dorsal hooks and lateral spines on the abdomen, and long, spiny legs.

Erythemis simplicicolis is a common resident of marshy, often eutrophic ponds and lakes and sometimes slow sections of streams. Emergence in our area occurs usually from late-May through June. I have reared nymphs collected from Half-Moon Lake in Livingston Co., southern Michigan, in mid-April that emerged as adults in late May. In southern Michigan, larvae may be multivotine or evidenced two different populations. Ed Kormondy also collected two size classes of larvae on 15 September 1953 from South Lake in Washtenaw Co., clearly indicating two size classes: one specimen appeared ready to emerge (enlarged thorax, wing pads enlarged), another very small specimen that was clearly immature. Similarly to Perithemis tenera (Morin 1984, Wissinger 1988), voltinism may be influenced by fish predation and food resources.

Taxonomic references: Needham et al. 2010, Paulson 2011, Walker and Corbet 1975


Morin PJ. 1984. The impact of fish exclusion on the abundance and species composition of larval odonates: results of short-term experiments in a North Carolina farm pond. Ecology 65: 53-60.
Needham JG, Westfall MJ, May ML. 2010. Dragonflies of North America, Third Edition. Scientific Publishers, Gainesville, Florida, USA. xiv + 657 p.
Paulson D. 2011. Dragonflies and damselflies of the East. Princeton Field Guides. Princeton University Press, Pinceton, New Jersey, USA. 538 p.
Walker EM, Corbet JS. 1975. The Odonata of Canada and Alaska, Vol. 3. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, Ontario. xvi + 308.
Wissinger SA. 1988. Spatial distribution, life history and estimates of survivorship in a fourteen- species assemblage of larval dragonflies. Freshwater Biology 20: 329-340.

Page created: July 17, 1998 - Last updated: February 19, 2017 (EB)