Variegated Meadowhawks have distinctive silvery-gray patches on their red abdomens, and red veins along the edge of their wings. There are two light-colored stripes on the thorax. In older individuals, these stripes may fade but you can still see yellow dots below where the stripes were.
On March 28, 2020, I was taking a walk at Oakes Quarry. It was the first day of dragonfly season, and the migratory Common Green Darners had just rolled into town on a warm front from the south. My gaze fell upon a small red dragonfly and I nearly fell over in shock. A meadowhawk? In MARCH? I had just found my first Variegated Meadowhawk.
On June 21, 2020, I had a real treat. I found several teneral Variegated Meadowhawks emerging at Oakes Quarry, at the same spot where I had seen the adult migrants in March and April. These tenerals were undoubtedly the offspring of the earlier migrants. It is amazing that they completed their life cycle from egg to emergence in less than three months! Teneral males and female Variegated Meadowhawks are yellow rather than red. In this photo, you can see one of the white stripes on the thorax ending in a yellow dot.
Variegated Meadowhawks are usually rare in Ohio, but 2020 turned out to be an exceptionally good year for them. These dragonflies are common in the southern and western United States. They sometimes turn up as migrants in the east, usually in very small numbers. I saw several migrants in late March and early April 2020, mostly at Oakes Quarry but also one individual at Grant Park in Centerville. They prefer open areas with wide, shallow ponds or wetlands.