LESTIDAE - Spreadwings
Archilestes Selys 1862 and Lestes Leach 1815
Fig. 1
Notes - MichiganSpecies List - Key -References
Back toZygoptera - Back to Home Page
Page last updated: 14December 1998 (EB)

Notes on the Michigan Species of Lestes

Lestidae is a widely distributed family oflarge-sized, slender damselflies. There are two genera of Lestidae inNorth America - Archilestes andLestes.Archilestes is principally a neotropical genus, with two speciesfound north of Mexico. Lestes is cosmopolitian.Presently 9 species of Lestes have been recordedin Michigan and are all fairly widespread across the state (see mapsbelow). However, given the rapid range expansion of Archilestes grandis(Gloyd1980) from Southwestern into theMidwest (including Illinois, Indiana and Ohio) and Northeastern USA,we suspect it may be in southern Michigan and thus is included in thekey below. Larvae are characterized by their distinctively long,narrowed labium that extends in repose back to the metacoxae (Fig.1).Based on current knowledge, male larvae of Lestes cannot always beidentified to species.

Larvae are usually daytime surface predators(Fischer1972, Eriksen 1984), and are well adapted for visual hunting: they possessmore ommatidia eye cells than any other family of Odonata exceptAeshnidae (Corbet1962). Larvae are found in aquaticbodies with ample aquatic vegetation and/or organic matter, usuallyponds, bogs, and marshes, but also in slow-moving streams, rivers andtheir impoundments (for species' habitat accounts, see Walker 1941; but see also Westfall andTennessen 1973). Several species areable to quickly develop in temporary pool and ponds. Eriksen (1984) studied the ability of L.disjunctus in a Montana bog pondcontrol their shunt their energy toward day-time feeding when oxgyenlevels are highest, and become inactive at night to reduce metabolicdemands, metabolism. During nightime, when oxygen levels and larvalrespiration is low, larvae are largely inactive, thus in effectconserving energy for daylight hours when oxygen levels are highest,and supportive of active predation. The author believes this allowslarvae to most effectively support rapid growth and emerge beforeaquatic conditions (temperature, oxygen) become too difficult forlarvae to survive. Larvae of Archilestes are found inponds, empoundments and streams of slow or moderate flow(Westfall andMay 1996), and it's ability to survivein poor water quality may be a reason for this species rapidexpansion throughout central and eastern North America (seeMoskowitzand Bell, 1998)

Other links with information on the biology orecology of larval Lestes andArchilestes:
Briefhabitat notes from Ottawa, Ontario>> http://www.cyberus.ca/~jdsankey/odon2.html

back totop
MichiganSpecies List

Map 1 Map 2 Map 3
Map 4 Map 5 Map 6
Map 7 Map 8Map 9
Maps 1-9: County distribution of the Michigan species of

*Archilestes grandis(Rambur, 1842) - Great Spreadwing
LestescongenerHagen,1861 - Spotted Spreadwing - Map1
Lestes disjunctus
Selys, 1862 - Common Spreadwing - Map 2
Lestes dryas
Kirby, 1890 - Emerald Spreadwing - Map 3
Lestes eurinus
Say, 1839 - Amber-winged Spreadwing - Map 4
Lestes forcipatus
Rambur, 1842 - Sweetflag Spreadwing - Map 5
Lestes inaequalis
Walsh, 1862 - Elegant Spreadwing - Map 6
Lestes rectangularis Say,1839 - Slender Spreadwing - Map7
Lestes unguiculatus
Hagen, 1861 - Lyre-tipped Spreadwing - Map 8
Lestes vigilax
Hagen in Selys, 1862 - Swamp Spreadwing - Map 9
Not yet recorded in Michigan, but dueto range expansion may be encountered in southern Michigan
back totop
Key toMature Larvae of Michigan Lestes
(References: Walker 1953, Westfall and May1996)

1a. Distal margin ofpalpal lobe with three sharp processes, the outermost markedlyshorter than the movable hook (picture); caudal gills with twowell-defined dark crossbands (picture) - Archilestes grandis

1b. Distalmargin of palpal lobe with four processes, three sharp hooks and onetruncate lobe whose edge has a serrated border within upper notch(picture); gills never with two distinct and complete dark crossbands(picture) - Lestes,2

2a.(1b). Lateral spines present on abdominal segments 1, 2,3 or 4-9; all gills of equal width along entire length, only 1/6 aswide as long (except at extreme tip) (picture) - 3

2b. Lateralspines present on abdominal segments 5 or 6-9; gills graduallytapering distally, widest part of median gill 1/3 to 1/5 length ofgill, with dorsal margin convex (picture) - 4
Back to previous couplet(1)

3a.(2a). Lateral spines present on abdominal segments 1-9(picture); black-brown band on apexes of third tarsal segments(picture); slow streams and lagoons - L. inaequalis

3b. Lateralspines absent on abdominal segment 1, present on segments 2 or 3-9(picture); apexes of third tarsal segments without black-brownbanding (picture); bog-margined lakes - L. vigilax
Back to previous couplet(2); Back to beginning ofkey

4a.(2b). Lateral spines present on abdominal segments 4-9(picture); on mature larvae, hind (outer) wing pad ca. 0.75x lengthof lateral gills (picture); serrated process of palpal lobe withdenticles jagged and irregular (picture); total length (includinglateral gills) of mature larvae >35 mm; bog ponds, localdistribution - L.eurinus

4b. Lateralspines present on abdominal segments or 6-9 (very rarely segment 4 onL. disjunctus and L.unguiculatus); hind wing pad at mostslightly more than 0.5x length of lateral gill (picture); serratedprocess of palpal lob with denticles usually more or less uniform andregularly spaced (picture); total length (including lateral gills) ofmature larvae < 34 mm - 5
Back to previous couplet(2); Back to beginning ofkey

5a.(4b). Movable hook of each palpus with three or fourlong setae (picture) - 6

5b. Movablehook of each palpus with two long setae (picture) - 8
Back to previous couplet(4); Back to beginning ofkey

6a.(5a). Width of slenderest part of prementum ca. 1/3 thewidth of the expanded distal part at base of palpi (picture); lengthof prementum < 3.5 mm in mature larvae (picture); permanent andsemi-perminent waters - L.congener

6b. Width ofslenderest part of prementum < ca. 1/4x width of the expandeddistal part at base of palpi (picture); length of prementum > 3.5mm in mature larvae (picture) - 7
Back to previouscouplet(5); Back to beginning of key

7a.(6b). Ovipositor of female extending little if anybeyond apex of abdominal segment 10 (picture); labium extendingrearward to middle of metacoxae at most (picture); total lengthusually < 30 mm; perminent or semi-perminent still marshy waters,often abundant - L.unguiculatus

7b. Ovipositorof female extending well beyond apex of abdominal segment 10(picture); labium extending rearward beyond metacoxae, if not, totallength usually >30mm (picture); common in temporary orsemi-perminent ponds, less common in perminent marshy waters -L. dryas
Back to previous couplet(6); Back to beginning ofkey

8a.(5b). Slender proximal part of prementum at most twicethe length of the expanded distal part (picture) - 9

8b. Slenderproximal part of prementum distinctly greater than twice the lengthof the expanded distal part, usually 2.5 times or greater (picture) -10
Back to previous couplet(5); Back to beginning ofkey

9a.(8a). Venter of abdominal segments 3-9 with a median rowof paired, brown, elongate spots at posterior margins (picture);movable hook of palpal lobe about 4x as long as its middle width(picture); ovipositor of female extending only to apex of segment 10(picture) - L.rectangularis

9b. Venter ofabdominal without such paired spots (picture); movable hook of palpallobe about 3x as long as its middle width (picture); ovipositor offemale extending slightly beyond segment 10 (picture) -L.unguiculatus
Back to previous couplet(8); Back to beginning of key

10a.(8b). Ovipositor of female extending to level of tips ofcerci or beyond (picture) - L.forcipatus

10b. Ovipositor of female extending only to level of bases ofcerci (picture) - L.disjunctus (slow streams, marshylakes and bog ponds, prevalent on acid soils) and L. rectangularis(quiet permanent waters of shady streams)
Back to previous couplet(8); Back to beginning of key


Corbet, P. S. 1962. Abiology of dragonflies. H. F. & G. Witherby Ltd.: London. xvi +247 pp.

Eriksen, C. H. 1984.The physiological ecology of larval Lestes disjunctus Selys(Zygoptera: Odonata). FreshwaterInvertebrate Biology3(3):105-117.

Fischer, Z. 1972.The energy budget of Lestesdryas Kirby (Odonata). Pol. Arch. Hydrobiol. 19:215-222.

Gloyd, L. K. 1980. Thetaxonomic status of the genera Superlestes and Cyptolestes Williamson1921 (Odonata: Lestidae). Occasional Papers of the Museum of Zoology,University of Michigan 694:1-3.

Hagen, H. A. 1861.Synopsis of the Neuroptera of North America, with a list of the SouthAmerican species. SmithsonianMiscellaneous Collections4:1-347.

Leach, W. E. 1815.Entomology, pp. 52-172. In Brewster's Edinburghencyclopaedia. Vol. 9. Edinburgh.

Moskowitz, D.P., and D. M. Bell. 1998. Archilestesgrandis (great spreadwing) in centralNew Jersey, with notes on water quality. Bulletin of American Odonatology 5(3):49-54.

Rambur, M. P. 1842.Histoire naturelle des insectes. Névroptères. (Suitesà Buffon). Roret: Paris. 534 pp.

Say, T. 1839.Descriptions of new North American neuropterous insects andobservations on some already described by (the late) Th. Say.Journal of the Academy of NaturalScience of Philadelphia 8:9-46.

Selys-Longschamps, M.E. de. 1862. Synopsis des agrionines, seconde légion:Lestes.Bulletin de l'Académie royale desSciences de Belgique (2)13:288-338(reprint 1-54).

Walker, E. M. 1941.List of the Odonata of Ontario with distributional and seasonal data.Transactions of the Royal CanadianInstitute 32(2):201-265.

Walker, E. M. 1953.The Odonata of Canada and Alaska, Vol. 1. University of TorontoPress: Toronto, Ontario. 292 pp.

Walsh, B. D. 1862.List of the Pseudoneuroptera of Illinois contained in the cabinet ofthe writer, with descriptions of over forty new species, and notes ontheir structural affinities. Proceedingsof the Academy of Natural Science of Philadelphia 2:167-272.

Westfall, M.J., and M. L. May. 1996. Damselflies of North America. ScientificPublishers: Gainesville, Florida. x + 650 pp.

Westfall,M. J., and K. J. Tennessen. 1973. Description of the nymph ofLestes inaequalis (Odonata: Lestidae). TheFlorida Entomologist56(4):291-293.

back totop