Tiny Dancer

Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies) is comprised of 14 genera. Three genera are common in Northern Virginia: Argia (Dancers); Enallagma (American Bluets); and Ischnura (Forktails).

Several species of Argia are relatively common in Northern Virginia parks: Blue-tipped Dancer and Variable Dancer are featured in this post; Blue-fronted Dancer was featured in a recent blog post.

Blue-tipped Dancer

The first photo shows a Blue-tipped Dancer damselfly (Argia tibialis) perching on a sandy beach in the stream bed of Dogue Creek, Wickford Park. This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration.

A Blue-tipped Dancer damselfly (Argia tibialis) spotted at Dogue Creek, Wickford Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

05 AUG 2015 | Wickford Park | Blue-tipped Dancer (male)

Variable Dancer

The next photo shows a Variable Dancer damselfly (Argia fumipennis) perching on vegetation along Dogue Creek, near Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration.

A Variable Dancer damselfly (Argia fumipennis) spotted at Dogue Creek near Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

05 AUG 2015 | Dogue Creek | Variable Dancer (male)

The last photo shows a mating pair of Variable Dancer damselflies (Argia fumipennis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). The pair is in tandem (a form of guarding behavior): the male (upper-left) guides the female (lower-right) to places where she can lay eggs in vegetation (endophytic oviposition).

A mating pair of Variable Dancer damselflies (Argia fumipennis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. The pair is in tandem.

05 AUG 2015 | HMP | Variable Dancer (mating pair, in tandem)

It’s helpful to get shots of mating pairs in tandem, since males and females of the same species can look quite different.

Sidebar: Scientific Classification of Damselflies

The following concise explanation of the scientific classification of damselflies is provided to help the reader understand where Argia (Dancers) fit into the bigger picture of the Order OdonataSuborder Zygoptera (Damselflies).

There are five families of damselflies in the United States of America, although only three families occur in the mid-Atlantic USA: Broad-winged damselflies; Narrow-winged damselflies (a.k.a., Pond Damselflies); and Spreadwing damselflies.

Family Calopterygidae is comprised of two genera.

Family Coenagrionidae is comprised of 14 genera. Three genera are common in Northern Virginia: Argia (Dancers); Enallagma (American Bluets); and Ischnura (Forktails).

Family Lestidae is comprised of two genera.

  • Archilestes (e.g., Great Spreadwing)
  • Lestes (e.g., Slender Spreadwing, Southern Spreadwing, Swamp Spreadwing)

There are relatively few genera of Broad-winged Damselflies and Spreadwing Damselflies. In contrast, there are many more genera and species of Narrow-winged Damselflies — more species, including many that look similar, makes this family the most challenging to learn!

Editor’s Note: Please comment to let me know whether the preceding information is helpful.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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