Types of Damselflies for Damselfly Identification

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picture of a familiar bluet damselfly

Narrow-winged damselflies account for approximately 100 of the 125 identified North American species. This http://gratography.com/wp-content/uploads provides pictures of species from the three primary Narrow-wing damselfly genera: American Bluets (Enallagma), Forktails (Ischnura) and Dancers (Argia).

Black and blue colored body patterns abound in species from all three genera, although as the video on the right shows that the color range extends to red damselflies. The pictures in the presenttion also show the presence of some purple damselflies. Apart from color, a few major between physical differences exist to aid with genus identification, within genus physical differences can be so slight as to make visual identification close to impossible without the aid of a magnifying glass.

Damselfly Identification: Bluets (Enallagma)

Sometimes damselfly identification is generally easy because of color. At least that’s partially true for the mostly blue colored Bluets (genus Egallagma). Approximately three dozen species inhabit temporary or standing water areas throughout North America, insuring that there’s at least one species in every neighborhood pond.

Along the southern half of North America, many bluet species fly year round. Six species represent the bluets here.

The most widespread Enallagma species, the Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile), gets top picture billing.

Their predominantly blue abdomen (except for the very bottom) serves as a good field identification clue.

picture of a Purple Bluet damselfly

The Purple Bluet (Enallagma cardenium), a colorful tropical species found in the Caribbean, also expands its range to Florida, and perhaps southern Georgia.

picture of a male tule bluet damselfly

Like most of the Enallagma species, you need to get a feel for identifying the Tule Bluet (Enallagma carunculatum).

It’s another very common pond damsel found at both lower and higher elevations across much of the United States.

The presence of more black than blue on the abdominal pattern (compared to other bluets in the area) usually serves as the best field identification clue.

Types of Damselflies: Dancers (Argia)

picture of a Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly

Close to two dozen Argia damselfly species inhabit slow moving water areas in North America.

While blue represents the predominant male body color, the half dozen species presented below highlight an even more colorful Argia world.

A mostly blue thorax along with blue coloration for the final three abdominal segments, are the characteristic identifying tips for the male Blue-fronted Dancer (Argia apicalis), top picture.

This is a common species in slow water areas east of the Rocky Mountains.

picture of a Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly

Blue-ringed Dancers (Argia sedula) inhabit many different water areas, especially in the southern half of the United States.

Because of their extended range, they can be found flying, or in many cases, perching in the sun near a water source, from April through October.

The extra-blue eyes and top thoracic stripe (compared to the side thoracic stripes), along with the thin, light circles on the dark abdomen are useful field identification clues.

picture of a Golden-winged Dancer damselfly

Golden or amber wings make for easy identification of the Golden-winged Dancer (Argia rhoadsi).

Finding one in the United States may prove to be a more difficult task than identifying one. They are a regional Argia species, with a range that extends from Northern Mexico to South Texas along the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Within their range, they are quite plentiful, and can be found near slow moving streams.

picture of a Variable Dancer damselfly

Three different subspecies of Variable Dancers (Argia fumipennis) inhabit the Eastern United States:

  • The Black Dancer of Florida (Argia fumipennis atra)
  • The Smoky-winged Dancer of the Southeast (Argia fumipennis fumipennis)
  • The Violet Dancer of most of the East (Argia fumipennis violacea)

While body color can vary from subspecies to subspecies, most of the males are violet, with blue an alternative color. Most of the females have brown bodies.

Wing color tends to get darker in the southern half of its range, with the darkest winged species, the Black Dancer, found almost exclusively in Florida.

The top picture shows a species with a brownish body and almost black wings, making the tentative identification a female Black Dancer (Argia fumipennis atra).

picture of a female vivid dancer damselfly

The Vivid Dancer (Argia vivida), the official state insect of Nevada, is also the most common Argia species along western forested areas near streams or rivers.

The name vivid describes the very blue color of the males. The picture shows a close up view of a female that highlights the triangular pattern on the side of the abdomen. It’s the best field identification clue for the species and is also present on males.

Forktails (Ischnura)

picture of a fragile forktail damselfly

Fourteen different forktail species (Ischnura) call North America home. As with the Bluets and Dancers, Forktails fly year round in their southern most ranges.

The Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita), a very common Eastern pond damselfly, flies from spring to fall.

The broken line on the top of the thorax, or exclamation point as it is often called, serves as the principle field identification clue.

Males have green to yellow coloration on the thorax, females have blue coloration. The top picture shows a male.

picture of a male pacific forktail damselfly

The Pacific Forktail (Ischnura cervula), a very common Western species, is also one of the easiest to identify.

Males, like the one pictured, display four light dots at the corners of the thorax. The picture also highlights the green eyes.

picture of an immature female Rambur's Forktail damselfly

Immature female forktails, like the female Rambur’s Forktail shown in the fourth picture, often have orange to red coloration.

Rambur’s forktail is a common species found along the southern half of North America.