Tramea lacerata

on this shot (above) note the pink and green highlights on the black 'saddlebags' that added much to this photograph.

Carmel River mouth, Monterey Co.
24 Sep 2006 [both photos above]
Black Saddlebags is a flier, not a percher, and thus most observations are of it in flight. Indeed, when patrolling territories, the males may not land for hours. This poor flight shot (left) will have to do to illustrate the flight characters: it looks front-heavy and 'hunched' in flight, in a characteristic profile, often with the abdomen held low and 'dragging' behind.

Manolis (2003) describes the characteristic ovipositing in this genus: "flying low in tandem over water, the male quickly releases the female, who drops to the surface and taps a cluster of eggs off the tip of the abdomen, then instantly the male recaptures her to fly on and repeat the process." This was been observed in Monterey County.

photo (left) Arroyo Seco Lakes 5 Aug 2006

Males and females look pretty much alike, with females and youngsters having a tendency to show yellow spots on the upper abdomen. Since only a single brownish spot atop the 7th segment appears on the ode above, I think the headline photos are of a male.

Black Saddlebags is a somewhat erratic dragonfly, appearing and disappearing from sites, possibly due to migratory movements. There is some thought that southern and lowlands populations move north and/or upslope to breed, and their offspring later move south and downslope (Manolis 2003). Perhaps that accounts for the occurrence of the individual shown above. This male — and several others — were suddenly present along the edge of Odello Lagoon in late September, although none were seen there throughout the summer.

Elsewhere in MTY, breeding activity was observed at various inland lakes and farm ponds in July-August. This map (right) shows some representative localities. More than 30 were at Arroyo Seco Lakes on 19 July 2004 (Rob Fowler, Steve Rovell), and ten at a small farm pond near Soledad 10 Aug 2006 (Don Roberson, Dave Keegan). As there were no specimens of this species taken in earlier years, the full date span is not known; 17 July-2 Oct is the span currently established. Elsewhere in California, Black Saddlebags fly April-October (Manolis 2003).

Literature cited:
  • Manolis, T. 2003. Dragonflies and Damselflies of California. Univ. of Calif. Press, Berkeley.
Web resources:
Major identification web sites with much information on California odes include: For sites with excellent photos to compare for identification or to simply enjoy, see: Many of these sites have links to other useful pages. Kathy Biggs's site is particularly useful in her selection of links.

All photos © Don Roberson 2007


Page created 24 Sep-2 Oct 2006