2018 County Records

Written by Jim Lemon and MaLisa Spring

The Ohio Odonata Society maintains a database for our Dragon/Damsel records. Key data are species, date, and location (including county). The earliest record date for a species in a county is known as the “County Record”. This can be a bit of a moving target as observations/specimens come to our knowledge. But it’s interesting to note county records at discrete moments, and update appropriately. New county records can mean different things – 1) part of it is simply having someone making observations, 2) part of it is species expanding their range, 3) part is irruption (sudden change due to various factors).

2018 was a banner year for new County Records. We had 286 County Records, far above any other year in our data!

Our Top Counties (#New County Records 2018) are most likely simply having people out looking:

Wood (12 new records); Lawrence (11); Guernsey (10); Madison (10); Preble (9); Brown (7); Fulton (7); Hocking (7); Sandusky (7); Seneca (7)

Map of the new 2018 County Records. The darker the color, the more records found in that county.

Looking at the map, most of these are towards the edge of the state, if not a border county. More observers leads to more observations and subsequently new county records.


If we look at the species having the most recent County Records, we see a different look.

Most New Species County Records – 2018 – 2017 – 2016

Carolina Saddlebags = 15 (3 in 2017)

Wandering Glider = 15 (5 in 2017)

Dusky Dancer = 12 (8 in 2017)

Westfall’s Slender Bluet = 11 (9 in 2017)

Slaty Skimmer = 10 (13 in 2017)

Flag-tailed Spinyleg = 8 (1 in 2017)

Unicorn Clubtail = 8 (4 in 2017)

Blue-faced Meadowhawk = 7 (4 in 2017)

Blue-ringed Dancer = 7 (5 in 2017)

Comet Darner = 7 (4 in 2017)

Vesper Bluet = 7 (4 in 2017)

One story here is the big numbers for Carolina Saddlebags in 2018 – 15 County Records and reported in 25 other counties. While the State Record was established in Fairfield Co in 1895, after that there are many multiple year gaps in the data. Not until 1995 were there reports in more than two counties. Saddlebags are migratory, and many of our 2018 observations (but not all!) were early in the season – so we might have been on the receiving end of a successful brood in the Gulf States.

Carolina Saddlebags have a large patch of red in their hindwings and a mostly red abomen with the exception of abdominal segments 8 and 9, which are mostly black. This species is prone to hovering, so it is not as easy to get a clear, sharp shot for ID.

Slaty Skimmer has more county records (26) in the last three years than any other species. This is another that was first observed in the 1800’s – Erie Co in 1896, but then recorded very infrequently until our first statewide survey in the 1990’s. Observations and county numbers have climbed every year for the last five. In addition to the new county records, Slaty’s were reported in 60 counties in 2018. This is a pretty classic range expansion – and 20 counties still needing Slaty observations.

The Slaty Skimmer is sometimes called the Blueberry Dragon, as its skin is similar in color to a ripe blueberry. These will often perch for you, making a photograph slightly easier if you can find them. They have clear wings with completely black stigmas (the weird dark cells at the top of the wings).

Our next two – Westfall’s Slender Bluet (23) and Wandering Glider (22) – are most likely the result of having more people out looking. Wandering Glider is our global Odonate – and not uncommon, so just have people out looking is key. Westfall’s Slender Bluet is not a strong flier and is similar to several of our other Bluets – but just having people look around is likely a big factor.

The Wandering Gliders are about as frustrating to net as they are to photograph. They don’t even rest for mating, instead doing it on the wing! These pernicious hovering dragons will constantly move and dodge, to the frustration of photographers and specimen collectors. Many field groups spent a lot of time trying to document these last year. We would have records for these statewide if they would just sit still for a little bit more. They are also sometimes called flying carrots or flying cheetos, owing to their orange coloration and angular abdomen.

Westfall’s Slender Bluet is one of our easier male damselflies to identify with large blue eyespots, taking up most of the back of the head. The tip of their abdomen is also mostly black with only small rings of blue along the anterior (front) edge. Then it is not until the 8th and 9th segment that the abdomen is covered in blue again. They also have narrow thoracic stripes, with more blue on their thorax compared to the other blue damselflies. This pair is in tandem, with the male grasping the females neck as a form of mate guarding or protection.


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