How Many Spots?

This large dragonfly with striking coloration is one of the most common species we observe at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo in the summer. The species is named after the number of spots on its wings, so one might assume its name would be fairly easy to remember. It turns out it’s a bit trickier than you might think. How many spots do you see?

When I count the spots on this dragonfly’s wings, I always come up with 20, but it turns out I’m counting wrong! This dragonfly gets its name from the dark brown spots only, so it’s called a twelve-spotted skimmer.

To further complicate things, it used to be commonly called a ten-spotted skimmer. You see 10 spots if you only count the white marks and include the two white dots at the very base of the hind wings (which I always seem to overlook accidentally).

Visit Nature Boardwalk and you’ll see a multitude of dragonflies, including these with the twelve (brown) spots from which they get their name!

Vicky Hunt


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