Since You Asked: Those red dragonflies are native Oregonians

I spotted what appeared to be a red dragonfly sitting on a bare twig on a bush in my front yard. Since my camera battery was dead, I looked at it a long time and then looked up "red dragonfly" on the Internet.

I'm sure it wasn't a damselfly or other red flying insect. It looked almost like an orange-winged dropwing that's native to Africa, not Oregon, but is similar to a European red-veined darter or a scarlet darter. Could one have blown here on a storm, or did I just miss finding an Oregon red dragonfly on my search?

— Ellen W., Medford

As to whether your morning visitor blew here on a storm, Ellen, never say never, but probably not.

The dragonfly you saw almost certainly is a member of a Southern Oregon variety that bug watchers say are easy to spot.

"There's definitely red dragonflies in this area, very striking red," said Peter Schroeder, associate professor of biology at Southern Oregon University. "They're quite common. I commonly see them in my backyard."

The family name for the red dragonflies is libellulidae, genus sympetrum, and they typically grow to a length of about 3 inches after flying away from their aquatic birthplace.

Despite the colder-than-usual temperatures, it's a good time of year to see many species of dragonflies. They may look fierce, but they're actually quite docile. That is, unless you're another flying insect.

"They'll tackle a butterfly in flight," Schroeder said. "They are important ecologically. They feed on a lot of flying insects, including mosquitoes. They're good to have around."

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