Yellow-sided Skimmer

Libellula flavida Rambur, 1842

Yellow-sided Skimmer
Ed Lam

Insecta (Insects)
Libellulidae (Skimmers)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

Male dragonflies in the genus Libellula are known to guard their mates while the female lays her eggs in the water at breeding habitats (Dunkle 2000).

State Ranking Justification

In New York, Yellow-sided Skimmers have only been confirmed extant at one location on Staten Island and one other probable location in Suffolk County (New York Natural Heritage Program 2011). There are historical locations in Westchester and Suffolk counties, where they have not been documented in recent years and there is at least some suggestion that these historical sites are no longer occupied (Donnelly 1999).

Short-term Trends

The Yellow-sided Skimmer has been confirmed on Staten Island in recent years near sphagnum bogs and sandy barrens (Lederer 1997) in at least one location. There are two other probable locations, one on Staten Island and one in Suffolk County within the last six years (Walter and Lederer pers. comm.). There are no additional records, even from recent efforts of the New York Dragonfly and Damselfly Survey (2005-2009) and the Staten Island Dragonfly Survey (White et al. 2010, Wollney 2011). Sightings of this species are fairly recent and infrequent in New York; therefore, short-term trends are unclear but at least the Staten Island population appears to be stable.

Long-term Trends

Recent observations since 1997 have been made on Staten Island (and two other probable sightings in Richmond and Suffolk counties), but information prior to this is limited (Donnelly 1999). There is some evidence that sites on Long Island where it once occurred have been degraded and the species was once known from Westchester county as well, so populations may be in decline. There are no additional records besides the one probable record from Suffolk county with the recent efforts of the New York Dragonfly and Damselfly Survey (2005-2009) and the Staten Island Dragonfly Survey (White et al. 2010, Wollney 2011).

Conservation and Management


Any activity which might lead to water contamination or the alteration of natural hydrology could impact Yellow-sided Skimmer populations (NYS DEC 2006). Such threats might include roadway and agricultural run-off, ditching and filling, eutrophication, changes in dissolved oxygen content, and development near their habitats (NYS DEC 2006). Groundwater withdrawal is a potential threat, as are invasive species at one of the probable sites in Suffolk County (New York Natural Heritage Program 2011). Both emergence rates and/or species ranges may shift for odonate species as a result of climate change (Kalkman et al. 2008).

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Any efforts to reduce roadway and agricultural run-off, eutrophication, ditching and filling activities, and development of upland borders and resulting increased groundwater withdrawal should be considered when managing for this species (NYS DEC 2006).

Research Needs

Further research is needed to define the distribution and population size of Yellow-sided Skimmers in New York. In addition, research is required to understand the habitat requirements and threats to this species, and to create appropriate management guidelines for its persistence in known locations (NYS DEC 2006).



Libellula flavida is known to inhabit mucky or boggy seepages mainly along the coastal plain (Dunkle 2000). In New Jersey, they have been found in acidic bogs with Sphagnum moss, mainly in abandoned cranberry bogs and along the coastal plain (Barber 1999, Bangma & Barlow 2010). In New York, a population was first documented on Staten Island in 1997 in an area with sandy barrens and sphagnum bog habitat (Lederer 1997).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Coastal plain poor fen* (guide)
    A wetland on the coastal plain fed by somewhat mineral-rich groundwater and slow decomposition rates of plant materials in the wetland (and thus develops peat). Plants are generally growing in peat composed primarily of Sphagnum mosses with some grass-like and woody components.
  • Red maple-sweetgum swamp* (guide)
    A hardwood swamp that occurs on somewhat poorly drained seasonally wet flats, usually on somewhat acidic soils. Red maple-sweetgum swamps often occur as a mosaic with upland forest communities. Sweetgum is often the dominant tree or may be codominant with red maple. Other codominant trees include pin oak and blackgum.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Bar-winged Skimmer (Libellula axilena)
  • Elfin Skimmer (Nannothemis bella)
  • Sphagnum Sprite (Nehalennia gracilis)


New York State Distribution

New York lies at the northern range extent of the range for Yellow-sided Skimmers. There is one confirmed extant location on Staten Island (Lederer 1997). Two females have been observed by an experienced surveyor in Cranberry Bog County Park in Suffolk county since 2005 (Walter pers. comm.). While the photo for this record is slightly uncertain since it could not be separated from an immature L. incesta by experts (Donnelly pers. comm.), this should be considered a probable site for this species.

Global Distribution

Yellow-sided Skimmers have a known range in the U.S. from Texas north to Oklahoma and Missouri east to the Altlantic coast and north to southern New York (Abbott 2007).

Best Places to See

  • Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve (Richmond County)

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

Yellow-sided Skimmer males have a pruinose whitish blue thorax and abdomen, black face, amber stripes along the front edge of each wing, and yellow stigmas with a black or brown outer tip (Dunkle 2000). Females and immature males have a yellow thorax with a narrow brown stripe, a tan face, and yellow abdomen with a black stripe dorsally (on the top). Females also have black wingtips to the stigma and a lateral flange on abdominal segment 8 (Dunkle 2000).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification



Dragonfly larvae and adults are predatory, preying on relatively smaller invertebrates.

Best Time to See

In New York, Donnelly (1999) notes the flight season as June-July and Lederer's (1997) specimens were captured on July 19 and August 10. The Suffolk county observation was July 3. Adults have been observed in New Jersey from May 11 to September 4 (Bangma & Barlow 2010) and they are known throughout their range to fly from mid-March to early October (Dunkle 2000).

  • Present
  • Reproducing

The time of year you would expect to find Yellow-sided Skimmer present and reproducing in New York.

Similar Species

  • Golden-winged Skimmer (Libellula auripennis) (guide)
    Female Golden-winged Skimmers have tan thoracic sides, narrow, brown wingtips, and longer, more slender abdomens than Yellow-sided Skimmers (Dunkle 2000).
  • Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea)
    Spangled Skimmers have black and white stigmas, while Yellow-sided have yellow stigmas (Dunkle 2000).
  • Needham's Skimmer (Libellula needhami) (guide)
    Female Needham's Skimmers have tan thoracic sides, narrow, brown wingtips, and longer, more slender abdomens than Yellow-sided Skimmers (Dunkle 2000).

Yellow-sided Skimmer Images


Yellow-sided Skimmer
Libellula flavida Rambur, 1842

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Arthropoda (Mandibulates)
      • Class Insecta (Insects)
        • Order Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies)
          • Family Libellulidae (Skimmers)

Additional Resources


Abbott, J.C. 2007. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the odonata of North America. Austin, Texas. Available at

Bangma J. and Barlow A. 2010. NJODES; The dragonflies and damselflies of New Jersey.<>.

Barber, B. 1999. Libellula flavida habitat. Personal communication.

Donnelly, T.W. 1999. The dragonflies and damselflies of New York. Prepared for the 1999 International Congress of Odonatology and First Symposium of the Worldwide Dragonfly Association. July 11-16, 1999. Colgate University, Hamilton, New York. 39 pp.

Dunkle, S.W. 2000. Dragonflies through binoculars: A field guide to dragonflies of North America. Oxford University Press: 266 pp.

Kalkman, V. J., V. Clausnitzer, K. B. Dijkstra, A. G. Orr, D. R. Paulson, and J. van Tol. 2008. Global diversity of dragonflies (Odonata) in freshwater. Hydrobiologia 595:351-363.

Lederer, P. 2010. Libellula flavida records. Personal communication.

Lederer, Paul. 1997. Libellula flavida in Staten Island. Argia 9(3):23.

NatureServe. 2010. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available (Data last updated August 2010)

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2011. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources. 2006. New York State Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Albany, NY: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Walter, S. 2010. Libellula flavida photo. Personal communication.

White, Erin L., Jeffrey D. Corser, and Matthew D. Schlesinger. 2010. The New York Dragonfly and Damselfly Survey 2005-2009: distribution and status of the odonates of New York. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY. 450 pp.

Wollney, S. 2011. SI Dragonfly: Home of the Staten Island dragonfly atlas. Available at:


About This Guide

This guide was authored by: Erin L. White

Information for this guide was last updated on: December 12, 2011

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Libellula flavida. Available from: Accessed July 19, 2024.