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Owlfly - Ululodes floridanus - female

Owlfly - Ululodes floridanus - Female
Greenwood County, South Carolina, USA
August 22, 2005
Size: 24mm body length
Is this the Four-spotted Owlfly? (1) I'd be more sure if this specimen had the spots.

Amazing odd combination of butterfly and dragonfly. Found on the ground near wooded area. Was fairly lethargic. A piece of a hindwing was missing.

Moved from Four-spotted Owlfly.

The white stigma on the FW but dark stigma on the HW is a combination that is apparently seen only in U. floridanus and U. bicolor, and U. bicolor is restricted to Arizona.

Moved from Ululodes.

#29833 Identification -- Ululodes quadripunctatus (female)
This is the owlfly Ululodes quadripunctatus (Burmeister, 1839). As noted by Patrick, there is considerable sexual dimorphism in many ascalaphids. Generally, females have relatively fat abdomens, at least when they are gravid and before they have laid their eggs. In U. quadripunctatus, the dorsal hair tuft on the abdomen and the "excavated" area at the base of the hind wing are diagnostic for the male. Many females have dark pigmented areas near the end of the hind wing, but many females lack this pigmentation, so it is not diagnostic. Generally in this species too, the forewing pterostigma is pale and the hind wing pterostigma is dark, though this character also shows some variation and can not be absolutely relied upon.

U. quad--spotting variable, I guess
Spotting seems to be variable, or to wear off, or something. This, with the plump abdomen, and with the wing morphology (hind wings not pedunculate, I think) is a female. Those usually have heavier spots, but not always. The one on the left below has almost no spots, is a female. The one on the right is also a female, but with very heavy spotting--the darkest I've seen:

Nice to see somebody else getting this species. Maybe we'll learn more about where they are found. Aren't they neat?

Patrick Coin
Durham, North Carolina

Sexual dimorphism.
I'm relatively sure that the spotting is related to sexual dimorphism, one gender having the spots, the other not.

Spots or not
I handled about 10 of these last year and a couple the year before. My observation is that females often have spots near the wing-tips, but they are sometimes almost absent. There appear to be other sexually dimorphic traits:Male has slender abdomen, female plump.

Male has prominent tuft of black bristles on top of abdomen, near base.

Hindwings of male are stalked (pedunculate), most visible when wings spread. Hindwings of female do not have prominent stalks.

If you look through my images I think you'll see these traits are consistent. The spots on the wings seem to be not completely consistent, but males seem to never have them. In other word, spotted wings are sufficient, but not necessary, to show you've got a female. That's what I concluded by grabbing every individual I could in the summer of 2004.

I'm prepared to stand corrected on all of this, of course.
Patrick Coin
Durham, North Carolina

If that's the case, then all of these images couldn't be females, right?

Another species Ululodes?
The taxonomy on these things is so confusing. To me this has the plump abdomen of a female Ululodes quadrimaculatus, as I've seen up here in Durham. However, as you said, there are just no spots at all on the wings. That's been variable in my critters, but there always seems to be a hint.

I was confused--thinking there were no eastern Ululodes, other than quadrimaculatus. Neuroptera of Florida lists Ululodes floridana and Ululodes macleayana. Both are supposed to be found in SC--the distribution for both looks like a southeastern coastal plain, perhaps. (We may not have them up in my neck of the woods.)
Rice University images linked from this page: Ululodes macleayana. Another image said to be of that species here. Those look close, but I don't see any images of U. floridana.

So mabye this is one of the other Ululodes. This site gives one reference with a key:
Lago, P.K. and S. Testa. 1989. Records of owlflies (Neuroptera: Ascalaphidae) from Mississippi, with a key to species. Entomological News 100:11-17.

I've not seen it, but it might be worth a trip to the library.

Patrick Coin
Durham, North Carolina

I guess we should move this one up to the Genus level. I sent an email to the AES regarding getting a copy of that 1989 article. Too bad they don't just put all that stuff online!

A little Googling turned up that the Florida Extension has a slide of an adult Ululodes floridana. I wonder if a Florida BugGuider could get a copy of that photo, though I'm not sure it would have enough info to help us.

Well, I should be able to find that ref at NC State, next time I get over there. I'm about due for a trip.

I've moved up to genus level, too. No spots. Phenology was also a little different--almost into August, which was when yours was found. That's suspicous--the more "definitely" U. quadrimaculatus were in June. Hard to tell from two data points, of course.

Patrick Coin
Durham, North Carolina

Ululodes: Male with spots?
I think I've found a male with spots, but don't know the species. Posted at

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Patrick Coin
Durham, North Carolina

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