Posts Tagged ‘Family Coenagrionidae’

Big Bluet damselfly (male)

September 25, 2020

A Big Bluet damselfly (Enallagma durum) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual — one of hundreds, if not thousands we saw while hunting for a rare to uncommon species of dragonfly — is a male, as indicated by his blue and black coloration and terminal appendages.

15 SEP 2020 | OBNWR | Big Bluet (male)

Ideal habitat for Big Bluet is as follows.

Habitat Large sandy lakes and lower reaches of rivers, even extending into brackish estuaries. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 2156-2157). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Think large, tidal rivers and bays. I have observed E. durum at Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, and Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Related Resources: Excellent digital scans created by Gayle and Jeanelle Strickland. Click on the button labeled “Download file” in order to view/save a full-size version of the graphics.

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 Enallagma (American Bluets) fits into the bigger picture of the Order OdonataSuborder Zygoptera (Damselflies).

There are four 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.

  1. Family Calopterygidae – Broad-winged Damselflies
  2. Family Coenagrionidae – Narrow-winged Damselflies
  3. Family Lestidae – Spreadwings

1. Family Calopterygidae is comprised of two genera.

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

3. 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!

Related Resource: “The Odonata of North America” is a complete list of both scientific names and common names for damselflies and dragonflies, maintained by the Dragonfly Society of the Americas.

An interactive version of the same species list is available from the Odonata Central Web site. The master list can be filtered in many ways. Location is perhaps the most useful filter.

For example, my good friend Mike Boatwright lives in Amherst County, Virginia USA. Click on the blue button labeled “Filter Results.” Then click the down arrow in the Location field, enter “Amherst” and select the complete location name that appears in a list of available options; click the “Apply Filtering” button. You should see a list of 97 species of odonates reported to occur in Amherst County, including 10 species in the genus Enallagma. Notice that Big Bluet isn’t on the list, although there are several species of Enallagma that aren’t found where I live in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly

August 31, 2020

A Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly (Argia apicalis) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

A. apicalis has “a blue form female and a brown form female.” Since neither the hamules nor terminal appendages can be seen clearly in the preceding photo, I’m unsure whether this individual is male or female.

Post Update

Michael Ready, good friend and fellow member of the Dragonfly Society of the Americas, shared the following comment via e-mail.

That’s an outstanding picture of a Blue-fronted Dancer. You state you are unsure of the individual’s gender. I am confident that it is a male. According to my field guides (Lam and Paulson), the blue-form female lacks the blue eyes and blue S8-10 that are apparent in your picture. Source Credit: Michael Ready.

Thanks for the kind words and helpful information, Michael! As it turns out, the field marks that you described are shown clearly in one of my blog posts: Blue-fronted Dancers (male, female), especially this photo.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Acceptable uncertainty

July 27, 2020

A teneral damselfly was spotted by Michael Powell during a photowalk with me along a mid-size stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

teneral: adult after it has just emerged, soft and not definitively colored. Source Credit: Glossary [of] Some Dragonfly Terms, by Dennis Paulson.

Teneral odonates, especially females, can be challenging at best to identify with certainty. And so it is with this one.

The first photo is the record shot. (Get a shot, any shot.) I think I might have just missed focus on the face.

No. 1 | 15 JUL 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | teneral damselfly

Refine the shot.

No. 2 | 15 JUL 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | teneral damselfly

Although this individual is definitely a member of Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies), both the genus/species and gender are somewhat uncertain.

It appears to be an Argia sp. based on long tibial spines. I think it is a male. Source Credit: Mike Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group.

For what it’s worth, Mike Powell and I saw three species of damselflies during our outing: Blue-tipped Dancer (Argia tibialis); Dusky Dancer (Argia translata); and Powdered Dancer (Argia moesta).

I’m not sure of the gender. I see what might be hamules, indicating this individual is male, but also see what looks like a female stylus (plural: styli) near the tip of the abdomen, indicating this might be a female.

Bonus Bugs and More

Look closely at Photo No. 1, the “record shot.” Notice the small orange colored insect perched along the bottom of the same rock on which the damselfly is perched. Can anyone identify Bonus Bug No. 1?

Post Update: “The fly at the [bottom] of this photo may be a black fly (Simuliidae).” Source Credit: John Smith, member “BugGuide” Facebook group.

Now look at Photo No. 2. Notice there is some type of dark insect that’s perched along the same edge of the rock as the damselfly. Can anyone identify Bonus Bug No. 2?

Post Update: “The bug at the bottom of your photo appears to be a caddisfly.” Source Credit: John Smith, member “BugGuide” Facebook group.

Also notice the dark insect is perched near what might be the exuvia from which the damselfly emerged, as shown in Photo No. 2. It’s tannish in coloration.

I didn’t see either the bonus bugs or possible exuvia when we were in the field. Of course!

Related Resource: Newly emerged damselflies, a companion blog post by Michael Powell.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-tipped Dancer damselfly (male)

July 17, 2020

A Blue-tipped Dancer damselfly (Argia tibialis) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along a mid-size stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Blue-tipped Dancer is a member of Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies).

This individual is a male. I love the gun metal gray color of his upper thorax stripes.

15 JUL 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Blue-tipped Dancer (male)

Related Resource: A. tibialis male #4 (Blue-tipped Dancer)

Credit

Thanks to Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for help in identifying this specimen.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly (female)

September 11, 2019

Identification of tan damselflies, such as the one shown below, can be a source of great frustration. Many species of tan damselflies look virtually identical: sometimes they are immature females and males; sometimes they are adult females. Very confusing!

29 AUG 2019 | HORP | Blue-ringed Dancer (female)

This individual is a female Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly (Argia sedula), spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along Popes Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park (HORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The Backstory

Mike Powell and I explored a segment of Popes Head Creek near the confluence with Bull Run. We saw only three types of damselflies along the rocky stream: Blue-fronted Dancer (Argia apicalis), Blue-ringed Dancer (Argia sedula); and Powdered Dancer (Argia moesta). This individual doesn’t look like either a female or male for any of those species. Stumped, I was. So I consulted Dr. Michael Moore for help in identifying this specimen.

This is a female Blue-ringed Dancer. They are quite variable, but usually have the last three abdominal segments pale like this [one]. Also, I think there is a very slight amber tint to the wings which is typical of female Blue-rings. Source Credit: Dr. Michael Moore, a professor (retired) in the Department of Biological Sciences at University of Delaware and odonate expert extraordinaire. Dr. Moore’s new Web site is a treasure trove of helpful resources.

Sincere thanks, Dr. Moore!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly (male)

September 2, 2019

A Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly (Argia sedula) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along Popes Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park (HORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

29 AUG 2019 | HORP | Blue-ringed Dancer (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by his blue coloration and terminal appendages. (Female Blue-ringed Dancer is mostly brown/tan in color.)

29 AUG 2019 | HORP | Blue-ringed Dancer (male)

Adult flight period

According to records for the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained by Dr. Steve Roble, Staff Zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, the adult flight period for A. sedula is from May 17 to October 24. The species is classified as common. Its habitat is “streams” and “rivers.”

Bear in mind, Dr. Roble’s records are for the entire state, therefore the adult flight period for A. sedula seems to be longer than it is in reality. The adult flight period for a single site is probably shorter.

New species

Blue-ringed Dancer is a new species for my Life List of Damselflies (Order Zygoptera).

Credit

Thanks to Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for help in identifying this specimen.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Aurora Damsel (mating pair, in heart)

June 14, 2019

The mating pair of Aurora Damsel (Chromagrion conditum) shown in the following photograph is “in wheel,” in which the male uses “claspers” (terminal appendages) at the end of his abdomen to hold the female by her neck/thorax while they are joined at their abdomens. The male — blue, yellow, and black in color — is on top; the female — yellow and black in color — is on the bottom.

The copulatory, or wheel, position is unique to the Odonata, as is the distant separation of the male’s genital opening and copulatory organs. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 377-378). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The wheel position is sometimes referred to as “in heart” when damselflies mate.

04 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Aurora Damsel (mating pair)

Female C. conditum is polymorphic, including two morphs: an andromorph with blue coloration similar to male; or a heteromorph with an entirely yellow thorax, as shown above.

It’s helpful to take photos of mating pairs of damselflies, especially “in wheel,” since males and females of the same species can look quite different.

Taxonomy

C. conditum is a monotypic genus in the Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies).

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Aurora Damsel (male, mating pair)

May 31, 2019

An Aurora Damsel (Chromagrion conditum) was spotted along the shoreline of a small pond located in Prince William County, Virginia USA. Aurora Damsel is a new species for my life list odonates.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his coloration and terminal appendages. Speaking of coloration, notice the underside of the male’s thorax is yellow — a key field mark for Aurora.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Aurora Damsel (male)

A mating pair of Aurora Damsel was spotted at the same location. This pair is “in tandem“: the male is on the upper-right; the female on the lower-left.

After copulation, Aurora Damsel engages in a form of guarding behavior known as “contact guarding,” in which the male and female fly “in tandem” to egg-laying sites. Contact guarding is used by most species of damselflies and some species of dragonflies to prevent aggressive males from hijacking the female.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Aurora Damsel (mating pair)

Female C. conditum is polymorphic, including two morphs: blue coloration similar to male; or with an entirely yellow thorax, as shown above.

It’s helpful to take photos of mating pairs of damselflies, especially “in tandem,” since males and females of the same species can look quite different. The preceding photo is slightly overexposed. As a result, the yellow coloration on both the male and female looks a little washed out.

Credits

Sincere thanks to Gary Myers for the tip that enabled Mike Powell and me to find this uncommon damselfly. See Aurora Damsels in action for Mike’s take on our first time seeing this species.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Powdered Dancer damselflies (males)

April 3, 2019

Two Powdered Dancer damselflies (Argia moesta) were spotted along Popes Head Creek near the town of Clifton, Virginia in Fairfax County USA. The stream is accessible via Chapel Road Park.

22 AUG 2016 | Chapel Road Park | Powdered Dancer (male)

Both individuals are male.

22 AUG 2016 | Chapel Road Park | Powdered Dancer (male)

Credits

Sincere thanks to Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for help in verifying my tentative identification of the gender of these specimens. (I wanted to be sure neither individual is a blue morph female.)

Related Resource: Powdered Dancer damselfly (female). [tan morph]

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Powdered Dancer damselfly (female)

March 29, 2019

A Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta) was spotted during a photowalk along a small stream at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her 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.

10 MAY 2017 | HORP | Powdered Dancer (female)

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

Credits

Sincere thanks to Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for help in identifying this specimen. My tentative identification, recorded in field notes dated 10 May 2017, proved to be incorrect.

I’m comfortable identifying some members of two of the three families of damselflies that occur in the mid-Atlantic states (USA), including Family Calopterygidae (Broad-winged Damselflies) and Family Lestidae (Spreadwings). Most members of the Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies), not so much.

I remember clearly the time when I was learning to identify dragonflies. I was more than a little confused at first. With persistence, the puzzle pieces started to fall into place sooner than I expected. Same story when I started learning to identify odonate exuviae. Never happened with damselflies, for whatever reason.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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