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red saddlebags

red saddlebags (Tramea onusta) [female] [male]
Photos © Mary Kay Rubey

Features and Behaviors

The red saddlebag is medium to large (1.5 to 2 inches long) dragonfly. The large brown spots on the wings near the body give this species its namesake. Males have large, burgundy eyes; a hairy, brown thorax; long, black legs; and a bright red abdomen with a black spot at the end. Females have brown eyes; a brown, hairy thorax; and a brown abdomen. They are easily confused for Carolina saddlebags (Tramea carolina), which occur in the eastern and southern part of the state but have a purple instead of red face.

This species is found near ponds and shallow lakes with lots of vegetation statewide, from May to August. They feed in open areas between dawn and dusk, sometimes targeting swarms of other insects near streams. Adults mate in vegetation or woody debris for eight to ten minutes. Females have been seen depositing eggs on shiny, water like surfaces; like wet roads, silage tarp, and automobiles. Larvae eats larval amphibians. 

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Odonata
Family: Libellulidae

Illinois Status: common, native