Sympetrum illotum
photo (above) 2 Aug 2006 Laguna Grande, Seaside
Cardinal Meadowhawk is the common red-bodied meadowhawk in Monterey County. Males perch low over or adjacent to still or slow-moving water at ponds, canals, and small open streams. The eyes are red to go with an orange-red face, and they often perch expectantly, wings bowed forward, ready to launch at any moment.
photo (above) 24 July 2006 Laguna Grande
photos (below, male & female) 2 Aug 2006 Laguna Grande
Here are a male and a female in similar poses. Both sexes have uniformly colored abdomens: all-red in the males and all-brown in females. There are a number of other species of meadowhawks with red abdomens, including Red-veined which is rare here, but Variegated Meadowhawk has a pattern of colored dots on the abdomen. Note the orange wash to the base of the wings, more apparent on the male, that includes not only the forewing but also washes across the base of hind portion of each wing.
When a female visits the male's territory, he chases her down for copulation and ten ovipositing. The photo below shows a pair in tandem, with the female ovipositing by tapping the surface of the rivulet rapidly.
photo (above) 2 Aug 2006 Laguna Grande
photo (below) 19 July 2006 Laguna Grande
With good views, a good character on both sexes is the presence of two white elongated spots on the thorax. See how apparent they can be on this photo of a male (below). These spots are often hidden by the wings, especially when the wings are held forward, but their presence will rule out the possibility of something much rarer.
Sometimes, as in the view below, the wings are held far forward and obscure the thorax and the face.
photo (above) 19 July 2006 Laguna Grande
But we'll use this view to illustrate another point. Look at the set of cells in the wing venation that are outlined in blue. These are the cells between the radial sector and the radial planate, and in this species [Cardinal Meadowhawk] there is just a single row of cells. On Red-veined Meadowhawk S. madidum, much rarer in MTY, the middle part of the outlined set of cells have a two rows of cells. This, and other i.d. characters, are discussed in more detail in Manolis (2003).
This map shows a selection of known sites where the species has been recorded in MTY. It is likely present, in season, in suitable habitat anywhere in the county. In California, although primarily a foothill species, it has been found upslope to 7000' elevation. In MTY, this ode has been found at ponds and streams in the lowlands and foothills, but has also been collected at 5000' elev on Chews Ridge (30 June 1974; Rosser W. Garrison). 

MTY flight dates range from at least 26 Mar–25 Oct; the peak seems to be about May-September. There is one unseasonal winter record – 4 Feb 2003 CSUMB, Ft. Ord (collected by R.J. Adams) – that could be a "late" date rather than an actual first emerger in spring. Or not; it is hard to say. Elsewhere in California the flight season is generally March-October, although there are scattered winter records from southern California (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 14 Aug 2006, updated 16 May 2007