Creature Feature: Painted Skimmer

By Drew Chaney, Center for Urban Habitats

Painted Skimmer

Libellula semifasciata

Family: Libellulidae


Distinguishing Features/Description:

The painted skimmer is a medium-sized, showy dragonfly with a translucent orange thorax and abdomen, partial orange wing venation, dark wing bands, reddish eyes, and black markings on the abdomen tip.

Distribution and Habitat:

The painted skimmer is found across the entire state of Virginia, and all of the eastern United States, including the whole Piedmont ecoregion, from Alabama to New Jersey. Its breeding habitats include marshes, shallow vegetated ponds, and grassy pools.

Ecology and Life History:

The painted skimmer flies from April 2 to September 20 in Virginia, but spring and early summer is when they fly in the Virginia Piedmont. While a resident species here in Virginia, painted skimmers found in Ontario and the northeastern states may be migrants. Like the rest of their kind, painted skimmers are insectivorous, but the specifics of their diet are not known. In fact very little is known about the details of this species’ life history, or that of most other North American dragonflies.


This individual was found while we were surveying a very diverse, acidic powerline prairie in southern Albemarle County. He was patrolling a small, boggy seep in the sunny powerline right-of-way, and perching on the tips of dead branches, presumably looking for food or a mate. Here in Albemarle County, the painted skimmer is an uncommon species, with just a handful of locations where it has been seen. I imagine plenty more breeding sites for this species can be found with more searching.

Image: Painted Skimmer (Libellula semifasciata). Photograph by Drew Chaney