Sunday, July 19, 2015

Why is this dragonfly called the "widow skimmer"?

widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa), Kansas

Why is this dragonfly called the "widow skimmer"?

The widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) is found throughout the United States and right here in Wichita, Kansas around ponds and marshy areas.

I have looked online for explanations of its name, widow skimmer, but, pretty much, drawn a blank.

So, here goes. The Latin name is Libellula luctuosa, which translates as "water-level" and "mournful". In English, we transpose the words and come up with mournful water skimmer. Okay, the water skimmer makes sense for these insects that love to hover over marshes and lakes and grab other insects, but what about "widow"?

Here is my guess. Look at the two pairs of black stripes or bands on the wings. Long before Carl Linenaeus and modern taxonomy, women in mourning and widows wore black clothing in grief after the death of a loved one, and her grieving orphans wore a makeshift black armband.

perching widow skimmer

Makes sense, but it is only a guess.

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