Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Roseate skimmer

with 34 comments

On October 4th I photographed a dragonfly that I take to be a roseate skimmer, Orthemis ferruginea.
Why the photograph doesn’t show six legs remains a mystery.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 16, 2018 at 4:40 AM

34 Responses

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  1. It’s possible to have lost a pair of legs avoiding getting eaten, or some other way. I see four legged insects every now and again (esp. roaches who will rip off legs in order to escape a sticky entrapment). Yours is a beautiful subject, missing legs or no, and I find Odonata fascinating. Good thing they’re just tiny insects now and not the behemoths of the past!

    Here’s a good read on them that my kids found some time back.



    November 16, 2018 at 6:22 AM

    • What’s stranger is that a picture taken a minute and half later on a different perch shows five legs, with the frontmost on the right being the missing one. I can’t be positive the individual was the same, but I think it was.
      That’s quite an informative article you linked to. I now know many times as much about dragonflies as I knew before. And yes, I’d read about those giant dragonflies of aeons past; I wouldn’t want to get attacked by one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 16, 2018 at 8:03 AM

  2. What a lovely colour and it blends in well with the soft pinkish grey background.


    November 16, 2018 at 7:41 AM

    • With animals in nature a photographer doesn’t usually get to choose the background, so you’re right that I lucked out with this soft and harmonious one. I was also lucky that the dragonfly stayed put and let me get this close.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 16, 2018 at 8:08 AM

  3. Such delicate washes of color!

    Susan Scheid

    November 16, 2018 at 9:58 AM

  4. Outstanding shot, Steve.


    November 16, 2018 at 10:41 AM

  5. Yikes, that is one eye-opener of a bug!

    Robert Parker

    November 16, 2018 at 5:36 PM

  6. Very pretty – not one I’ve seen here!!


    November 16, 2018 at 8:07 PM

  7. Great photo!


    November 16, 2018 at 9:26 PM

  8. it’s because it’s an alien from that probe that passed by us 🙂


    November 17, 2018 at 9:44 AM

  9. What a beauty!


    November 17, 2018 at 12:53 PM

  10. Beautiful!

    Jenny Meadows

    November 18, 2018 at 4:54 AM

  11. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/14-fun-facts-about-dragonflies-96882693/ In the image in this article, the dragonfly appears to have its front legs retracted considerably. I wonder if the same thing has happened with the roseate skimmer in your photo. 4 legs or 6, it’s a very attractive creature.


    November 18, 2018 at 4:58 AM

    • That’s a good hypothesis, and one supported by the evidence of the photo you linked to. And as you say, either way it’s an attractive creature.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2018 at 6:05 AM

  12. I’ve seen exactly one of these. It was the first dragonfly photo I attempted, and it left me with a sense of serious respect for people who can get great photos of them — like this one.

    I wondered about retracted legs. Birds so often stand on one leg, with the other completely retracted and hidden, I wondered if a resting dragonfly might do the same. An online search wasn’t satisfactory, since any reference to ‘dragonfly’ and ‘legs’ led primarily to general descriptions. Somewhere I have or had a link to an “ask an entymologist” site. If I can find it, I’ll ask.


    November 18, 2018 at 8:19 AM

    • The trick, if trick it be, is getting near enough without the subject flying away. Once I was this close, the photograph pretty much took care of itself.

      If you learn any more about the legs, do let us know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 18, 2018 at 9:10 AM

  13. The insect is lovely, with four, five, or six legs.


    November 20, 2018 at 11:04 PM

  14. A mystery indeed .. but oh so handsome! Love those colours ..


    November 22, 2018 at 11:40 AM

  15. Beautiful! I have come to photograph dragonflies this year when I discovered hordes of them at our local wetlands. I, too, notice that sometimes they only stand on 4 legs. I found two of the legs curled up behind their head! This Roseate is lovely!


    August 24, 2020 at 10:23 PM

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