Posts Tagged ‘Dancers (Argia)’

How to Identify Damselfly Exuviae to Family

March 11, 2017

There are five families of damselflies (Suborder Zygoptera) in the United States of America, although only three families occur in the mid-Atlantic region: Family Calopterygidae (Broad-winged Damselflies)Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies); and Family Lestidae (Spreadwings).

Pattern recognition can be used to tentatively identify damselfly larvae/exuviae to the family level: the shape of the prementum is characteristic for each of the three families; mnemonics can be used to remember each distinctive shape.

Family Calopterygidae (Broad-winged Damselflies)

Family Calopterygidae features a prementum with a shape that looks somewhat similar to Family Coenagrionidae. Look for an embedded raindrop shape, located toward the upper-center of the prementum.

An Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata) exuvia was collected along a small stream located in eastern Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Family Calopterygidae (Broad-winged Damselflies) | prementum

Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies)

The shape of the prementum for Family Coenagrionidae reminds me of a keystone.

A Narrow-winged Damselfly exuvia — probably Argia sp. (it’s a work in progress) — was collected along the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by the rudimentary ovipositor located on the ventral side of her abdomen.

Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies) | ventral

The lamellae, also known as caudal lamellae, are external structures used by damselfly larvae for both respiration and locomotion. In contrast, the respiratory system for dragonfly larvae is internal. Characteristics of the caudal lamellae (including shape of/patterns on) are some of the clues that can be used to identify damselflies to the genus/species level.

Family Lestidae (Spreadwings)

The unique shape of the prementum for Family Lestidae reminds me of a rattle (musical instrument).

A damselfly exuvia from the Family Lestidae (Spreadwings) was collected from a small vernal pool located in eastern Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Although the genus/species is unknown (again, it’s a work in progress), both Slender Spreadwing (Lestes rectangularis) adults and Southern Spreadwing (Lestes australis) adults were observed at the vernal pool on the same day this specimen was collected.

Family Lestidae (Spreadwings) | prementum

Related Resources

The first step is the hardest, as the saying goes. In this case, it’s easier to identify damselfly larvae/exuviae to the family level than it is to identify specimens to the genus/species level. There are relatively few resources, especially online resources. The following links to two dichotomous keys and a pattern-matching guide for caudal lamellae should help you get started. Many of the same species of damselflies that are known to occur in Michigan, Florida, and the Carolinas can be found in the mid-Atlantic region.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Dusky Dancer damselflies (mating pair)

September 12, 2016

A mating pair of Dusky Dancer damselflies (Argia translata) was spotted along Pope’s Head Creek at Chapel Road Park. Dusky Dancer is a new species on my life list of odonates.

This pair is “in tandem“: the male is on the upper-right; the female is on the lower-left.

A mating pair of Dusky Dancer damselflies (Argia translata) spotted along Pope's Head Creek at Chapel Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in tandem."

29 AUG 2016 | Chapel Road Park | Dusky Dancer (mating pair)

The male is on the upper-left in the following photo; the female is on the lower-right. The male is engaged in “contact guarding,” in which the male and female fly “in tandem” to egg-laying sites. The female is ovipositing in a partially submerged leaf.

A mating pair of Dusky Dancer damselflies (Argia translata) spotted along Pope's Head Creek at Chapel Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in tandem."

29 AUG 2016 | Chapel Road Park | Dusky Dancer (mating pair)

Related Resource: A. translata male (Dusky Dancer) [JPG] [digital scan].

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Powdered Dancer damselflies (mating pairs)

September 10, 2016

Two mating pairs of Powdered Dancer damselflies (Argia moesta) were spotted during a photowalk along Pope’s Head Creek at Chapel Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The first mating pair is “in heart“: the male is on top; the female is on the bottom.

A mating pair of Powdered Dancer damselflies (Argia moesta) spotted along Pope's Head Creek at Chapel Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in heart."

29 AUG 2016 | Chapel Road Park | Powdered Dancer (mating pair)

Female Powdered Dancers are polymorphic; the female in the preceding mating pair is the blue morph that looks somewhat similar to males of the same species.

The last mating pair of Powdered Dancers was spotted “in tandem“: the male is on the upper-left; the female is on the lower-right. The female in the following mating pair is the tan morph.

A mating pair of Powdered Dancer damselflies (Argia moesta) spotted along Pope's Head Creek at Chapel Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in tandem."

29 AUG 2016 | Chapel Road Park | Powdered Dancer (mating pair)

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Powdered Dancer (males, female)

August 23, 2016

Several Powdered Dancer damselflies (Argia moesta) were spotted during two photowalks along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park. Powdered Dancer is a new species on my life list of odonates.

Male

This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration. The common name “Powdered” seems to perfectly describe the appearance of males of this species.

A Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta) spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

04 AUG 2016 | Riverbend Park | Powdered Dancer (male)

Female

The following individual is a female, as indicated by its coloration. Female Powdered Dancers are polymorphic: this is the tan morph; there is also a blue morph that looks somewhat similar to males of the same species.

A Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta) spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female (light brown morph).

04 AUG 2016 | Riverbend Park | Powdered Dancer (female)

Also notice the female’s abdomen is thicker near the tip than the tip of the male’s abdomen, due to female egg-laying anatomy.

A Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta) spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female (light brown morph).

04 AUG 2016 | Riverbend Park | Powdered Dancer (female)

More males

Many more male Powdered Dancer damselflies were spotted during a follow-up photowalk on 08 August 2016.

A Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta) spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

08 AUG 2016 | Riverbend Park | Powdered Dancer (male)

A Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta) spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

08 AUG 2016 | Riverbend Park | Powdered Dancer (male)

A Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta) spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

08 AUG 2016 | Riverbend Park | Powdered Dancer (male)

Sidebar: Scientific Classification of Damselflies

The following concise explanation of the scientific classification of damselflies is provided to help the reader understand where the genus Argia (Dancers) fits 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 © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Tiny Dancer

August 13, 2015

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.

Blue-fronted Dancer damselflies (males)

August 3, 2015

Two Blue-fronted Dancer damselflies (Argia apicalis) were spotted during a photowalk around Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR). Both individuals are males.

A Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly (Argia apicalis) spotted at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

24 JUL 2015 | JMAWR | Blue-fronted Dancer (male)

This is the first time I have seen Blue-fronted Dancers in Virginia, although I have seen them in Maryland along the Little Patuxent River, Patuxent Research Refuge (North Tract).

A Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly (Argia apicalis) spotted at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

24 JUL 2015 | JMAWR | Blue-fronted Dancer (male)

Sidebar: Scientific Classification of Damselflies

The following concise explanation of the scientific classification of damselflies is provided to help the reader understand where Blue-fronted 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).

  • Argia (e.g., Blue-fronted Dancer, Blue-tipped Dancer, Variable Dancer)
  • Enallagma (e.g., Big Bluet, Familiar Bluet, Orange Bluet, Stream Bluet)
  • Ischnura (e.g., Eastern Forktail, Fragile Forktail, Rambur’s Forktail)

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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