Dragonfly and Damselfly Guide

Damselflies

DRAGONFLIES
Canada Darner
Fawn Darner
Green Darner
Lance-tipped Darner
Shadow Darner
Springtime Darner
Dragonhunter
Boreal Snaketail
Dusky Clubtail
Lilypad Clubtail
Arrowhead Spiketail
Common Baskettail
Prince Baskettail
Swift River Cruiser
Eastern Pondhawk
Chalk-fronted Corporal
Dot-tailed Whiteface
Widow Skimmer
Twelve-spotted Skimmer
Blue Dasher
Common Whitetail
White-faced Meadowhawk
Ruby Meadowhawk
Yellow-legged or Autumn Meadowhawk
Black Saddlebags
Eastern Amberwing
Halloween Pennant

DAMSELFLIES

Ebony Jewelwing
River Jewelwing
American Rubyspot
Emerald Spreadwing
Sweetflag Spreadwing
Slender Spreadwing
Lyre-tipped Spreadwing
Blue-fronted Dancer
Variable Dancer
Powdered Dancer
Rainbow Bluet
Tule Bluet
Boreal Bluet
Familiar Bluet
Subarctic Bluet
Marsh Bluet
Stream Bluet
Hagen’s Bluet
Orange Bluet
Eastern Forktail
Sedge Sprite

 

Family Calopterygidae (Broad-winged Damselflies)

This showy group of damselflies possess wide, heavily-veined wings which taper gradually at the base and are not stalked or petioled. The coloured wings, usually black, are held closed or together over the top of their metallic-coloured bodies. On hot days, broadwings are the only damselflies to obelisk by holding their abdomens toward the sun.

Ebony Jewelwing

Calopteryx maculata

Length: 39 – 57 mm

Description: large damselfly with metallic green body, male has black wings; female has white dot at tip of brownish wings

Habitat: edges of often shaded streams and rivers

Flight Season: May to September

Range: throughout southern Ontario, from Lake Superior west to Manitoba south of boreal forest

True fact: in partly shaded places, males perch in sunny locations to be even more obvious

Female ebony jewelwing, Photo: Benny Mazur

Female ebony jewelwing, Photo: Benny Mazur

Male ebony jewelwing, Photo: Kerry Wixted

Male ebony jewelwing, Photo: Kerry Wixted

River Jewelwing

Calopteryx aequabilis

Length: 43 – 59 mm

Description: large damselfly with metallic green body, male has translucent wings with a dark black section at the tip of wing; female, similar to male; translucent brown wings and a white dot at the very tip of the wings

Habitat:along streams and rivers and nearby forest edge

Flight Season: May to September

Range: throughout Ontario

True fact: River jewelwings can easily be differentiated from ebony jewelwings, where ebony jewelwings have entirely dark wings,  river jewelwings’ wingtips look like they have been dipped in ink.

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Female river jewelwing damselfly, photo: Kathy and Dave Biggs, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Male river jewelwing damselfly, photo: Kathy and Dave Biggs CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

 

 

American Rubyspot

Hetaerina americana

Length: 38 – 46 mm

Description: large damselfly, male has bright red patch at base of wings, female usually with paler orangeish wash at base of wings, male and female with small white spot at tip of wings

Habitat: streams and rivers with emergent vegetation

Flight Season: June to October

Range: southwestern Ontario

True fact: Groups of this species congregate at dusk during emergence of mayflies.

Female American rubyspot, Photo: J.N.Stuart

Female American rubyspot, Photo: J.N.Stuart

Male American rubyspot, Photo: Noah Cole

Male American rubyspot, Photo: Noah Cole

 

Family Lestidae (Spread-winged Damselflies)

Species of this family of damselflies possess stalked, clear wings which are held spread-out and slightly to the side.

Emerald Spreadwing

Lestes dryas

Length: 32 – 40 mm

Description: rather stocky body, top of thorax and abdomen in male bright metallic green, thorax pale on sides, female duller than male but top of thorax metallic green with pale sides, top of abdomen metallic green

Habitat: shallow ponds and marshes that often dry up in late summer

Flight Season: May – September

Range: southwestern and southeastern Ontario

True Fact: Like other spreadwings, as their name suggests they perch with wings somewhat outstretched. This makes them the exception to the “rule” that damselflies perch with wings folded back tightly over their abdomen.

Female emerald spreadwing, Photo: sankax

Female emerald spreadwing, Photo: sankax

Male emerald spreadwing, Photo: Mathesont

Male emerald spreadwing, Photo: Mathesont

Sweetflag Spreadwing

Lestes forcipatus

Length: 33 – 44 mm

Description: similar to other spreadwings, female with large ovipositor, only species with tip of ovipositor (egg-laying appendage) extending to or beyond tip of cerci (paired, finger-like appendages or projections at the tip of the abdomen).

Habitat: temporary and permanent ponds, marshy areas, quiet streams

Flight Season: June to September

Range: southwestern and eastern Ontario, west of Lake Superior south of boreal forest

True Fact: Eggs laid in incisions in live stems of rushes, cattails, sedges and sweetflag up to a metre or two above shallow water or mud.

Female sweetflag spreadwing, Photo: Bev Edwards

Female sweetflag spreadwing cerci, Photo: Bev Edwards

Male sweetflag spreadwing, Photo: Bob Danley

Male sweetflag spreadwing, Photo: Bob Danley

Slender Spreadwing

Lestes rectangularis

Length: 37 – 53 mm

Description: long-bodied and slender, abdomen nearly twice as long as wings, thorax with pale shoulder stripes and yellow sides, lack of pruinosity (a bluish, greyish or whitish, waxy to powdery bloom on the abdomen) at tip of abdomen

Habitat: shaded ponds or quiet areas of streams, marshy waters

Flight Season: June – October

Range: south-eastern and south-western Ontario

True Fact: This species may emerge in great numbers from some wetlands.

Female slender spreadwing, Photo: Benny Mazur

Female slender spreadwing, Photo: Benny Mazur

Male slender spreadwing, Photo: Gary Yankech

Male slender spreadwing, Photo: Gary Yankech

Lyre-tipped Spreadwing

Lestes unguiculatus

Length: 31 – 44 mm

Description: male with blue eyes, covered with powdery bluish-white coloration when mature, separated from other spreadwings by S-shaped terminal appendage on abdomen (hence name “lyre-tipped”); female with blue or brown eyes, much stouter than slender male

Habitat: open, usually temporary wetlands and ponds

Flight Season: June to September

Range: throughout most of Southern Ontario to northern part of Great Lakes area

True Fact: Population is severely affected by drought, but is quick to populate newly-flooded areas.

Female lyre-tipped spreadwing, Photo: Bev Edwards

Female lyre-tipped spreadwing, Photo: Bev Edwards

Male lyre-tipped spreadwing, Photo: pointytilly

Male lyre-tipped spreadwing, Photo: pointytilly

 

Family Coenagrionidae (Pond or Narrow-winged Damselflies)

Species in this large family are small and brightly coloured. They possess clear, narrow wings which appeared stalked at the base and which are held closed over the body.

Blue-fronted Dancer

Argia apicalis

Length: 33 – 40 mm

Description: male: clear blue, unpatterned thorax separates it from other dancers, blue eyes, abdomen with blue tip; female: usually blue to brown

Habitat: rivers and streams, prefers wide muddy rivers

Flight Season: June to August

Range: southwestern Ontario to Lake Simcoe and south

True Fact: Often perches on ground or low in vegetation, pairs usually lay eggs on floating, horizontal material.

Male blue-fronted dancer, Photo: Victor Fazio

Male blue-fronted dancer, Photo: Victor Fazio

Male blue-fronted dancer, Photo: Chris Earley

Male blue-fronted dancer, Photo: Chris Earley

Variable Dancer

Argia fumipennis violacea

Length: 29 – 34 mm

Description: male only damselfly in Ontario with general violet colour, thorax with thin black, forked shoulder stripes and paler sides, abdomen violet with black markings and blue tip; females with brown head, light brown thorax with forked black stripes, brownish abdomen with black stripe

Habitat: small streams, ditches, small ponds with much vegetation

Flight Season: June to September

Range: central, south western and south eastern Ontario

True Fact: Pairs may submerge while laying eggs.

Female variable dancer, Photo: Bev Edwards

Female variable dancer, Photo: Bev Edwards

Male variable dancer, Photo: Gary Yankech

Male variable dancer, Photo: Gary Yankech

Powdered Dancer

Argia moesta

Length: 37 – 42 mm

Description: mature males become whitish, abdomen blackish with paler tip; females have two colour forms (polymorphic), either completely brown, or dark blue on head, thorax and tip of abdomen

Habitat: prefers rocky shores of lakes, streams and rivers

Flight Season: June to September

Range: central, south western and south eastern Ontario, west to Manitoba south of boreal forest

True Fact: Pairs or female alone lay eggs on surface or submerged for up to 30 minutes and more than a metre under water, females may eat other damselflies including their own species

Female powdered dancer, Photo: J.N.StuartFemale powdered dancer, Photo: J.N.Stuart

Male powdered dancer, Photo: Gary YankechMale powdered dancer, Photo: Gary Yankech

Rainbow Bluet

Enallagma antennatum

Length: 27 – 33 mm

Description: male is distinguished by combination of orange colour on face, greenish thorax with black shoulder stripes, and blue abdomen (darker above), fine black stripe on yellow legs;Female pale yellowish green, thorax and abdomen dark above

Habitat: quiet streams and rivers with emergent vegetation along edge, also lakes especially near stream inlets or outlets

Flight Season: June to August

Range: south-eastern and south-western Ontario

True Fact: Females of this species have been reported to submerge to lay eggs, pairs oviposit along edge of water in vegetation

Female rainbow bluet, Photo: Jason Forbes

Female rainbow bluet, Photo: Jason Forbes

Male rainbow bluet, Photo: Jason Forbes Male rainbow bluet, Photo: Jason Forbes

Tule Bluet

Enallagma carunculatum

Length: 26 – 37 mm

Description: commonly found in marshes in the north; males eyes blue with black top, blue thorax broadly striped with black, abdomen with black patches(approximately equal amount of black and blue); female: may be brown or blue

Habitat: slow streams and rivers, ponds and lakes especially where cattails present

Flight Season: June to September

Range: central and south western Ontario, also Lake of the Woods regions west of Lake Superior

True Fact: Major predator of mayflies and small flies, may be seen on wing well out over open water.

Male Tule bluet, Photo: Jerry Oldenettel

Male Tule bluet, Photo: Jerry Oldenettel

Boreal Bluet

Enallagma boreale

Length:28 – 36 mm

Description: male has blue eyes with black cap, abdomen predominantly blue with faint dots in blue near tip of abdomen; female: may be brown or blue

Habitat: boggy or marshy lakes, ponds and slow stream

Flight Season: May to August

Range: present throughout Ontario, but more common in the north

True Fact: Sometimes are numerous in open areas of forests.

Female boreal bluet, Photo: Mike Ostrowski

Female boreal bluet, Photo: Mike Ostrowski

Male boreal bluet, Photo: Mike Ostrowski

Male boreal bluet, Photo: Mike Ostrowski

Familiar Bluet

Enallagma civile

Length: 28 – 39 mm

Description: abundant and widespread, mostly blue with fairly thin black humeral stripe on thorax, post-ocular spots (behind front of eyes) rather large and somewhat triangular, long cerci (appendages beyond abdomen) visible with good dorsal view; females similar pattern but may be brown or blue

Habitat: standing or slow-moving water such as ponds or slow streams, also newly-created habitats

Flight Season: May to October

Range: south eastern and south western Ontario

True Fact: This species may be extremely abundant at some sites. The males arrive at water and remain in large numbers until late afternoon. Mating is most frequent around mid-day. During egg-laying, the female backs underwater while the pair is in tandem, but the male releases her before his head submerges, clasping her again when she surfaces.

Female familiar bluet, Photo: Gary Yankech

Female familiar bluet, Photo: Gary Yankech

Male familiar bluet, Photo: Bev Edwards

Male familiar bluet, Photo: Bev Edwards

Subarctic Bluet

Coenagrion interrogatum

Length:28 – 33 mm

Description: far northern species, both sexes with wide blue shoulder stripes, usually divided into two rectangles and two squares, male with eyes black over blue, alternating blue and black abdomen, female duller than male, may be blue or green

Habitat: fens, bogs and marshes especially when sphagnum moss is present

Flight Season: June to July

Range: northern and north western Ontario, absent from southeastern and southwestern Ontario

True Fact: This species has the most northerly range of the bluets. Copulating pairs of this species often perch in shrubs as high as head height.

Marsh Bluet

Enallagma ebrium

Length: 28 – 34 mm

Description: very common in northern areas; male mostly blue colouration, distinguished from Boreal, Northern and Familiar bluets by teardrop-shaped spots behind eyes joined by a small occipital bar resembling a dumbbell, distinguished from Hagen’s bluet by C-shaped terminal appendages

Habitat: lakes, marshes, ponds and quiet streams

Flight Season: May to September

Range: Ontario north to southern tip of James Bay, in northwest to Manitoba south of the boreal forest region

True Fact: Males may be found in large numbers perching on shoreline plants or mats of algae, not usually found over open water.

Male marsh bluet, Photo: Jason Forbes

Male marsh bluet, Photo: Jason Forbes

Marsh bluet eyespots, Photo: Bev Edwards

Marsh bluet eyespots, Photo: Bev Edwards

Stream Bluet

Enallagma exsulans

Length: 31 – 37 mm

Description: slender bluet, usually around streams and rivers, abdomen primarily black with blue near tip, greenish hue on thorax and head, spots behind eyes narrowly connected to form a narrow dumbbell shape

Habitat: prefers streams and rivers

Flight Season: June to September

Range: southern Ontario to north shore of Georgian Bay, absent

Female stream bluet, Photo: Lisa Brown

Female stream bluet, Photo: Lisa Brown

Male stream bluet, Photo: Vicki DeLoach

Male stream bluet, Photo: Vicki DeLoach

Hagen’s Bluet

Enallagma hageni

Length: 27 – 33 mm

Description: small, common bluet especially in northern areas, postocular spots (behind eyes) show as a dumbbell shape; male eyes blue with black cap, striped blue and black thorax, abdomen alternates black and blue; female may be light brown, green or blue, eyes light brown or greenish with brown cap

Similar Species: almost identical to Marsh Bluet, only differ in shape of terminal appendages

Habitat: ponds, marsh-bordered lakes, quiet streams

Flight Season: May to September

Range: throughout Ontario south of boreal forest region

True Fact: During egg-laying, like several other bluets the female will submerge, crawling around underwater vegetation.Upon resurfacing, the waiting male (or another) will re-attach to form a tandem pair again.Males seem to act as lifeguards, pulling floating females from water (for the purpose of mating, of course!).

Male Hagen's bluet, Photo: Chris Earley

Male Hagen’s bluet, Photo: Chris Earley

 

Orange Bluet

Enallagma signatum

Length:28 – 37 mm

Description: male eyes orange, thorax orange with black stripes, abdomen mostly black with orange rings, female similar pattern but brown eyes and dull yellow to orange in paler areas, young adults may be blue

Habitat: lakes, ponds, slow streams, and tolerates somewhat polluted areas

Flight Season: June to October

Range: central, south eastern and south western Ontario

True Fact: At water, this species’ peak activity is late afternoon, and stays active until dark.Females or even the pair in tandem may submerge during egg-laying for ten to twenty minutes.

Female orange bluet, Photo: Chris Earley

Female orange bluet, Photo: Chris Earley

Male orange bluet, Photo: Anita363

Male orange bluet, Photo: Anita363

Eastern Forktail

Ishnura verticalis

Length: 29 – 33 mm

Description: male thorax is yellowish green with black stripes; yellowish-green abdomen is black on top and ends with a blue and black patterned tip; adult females are a powdery purplish-blue with variable black markings; young females are orange with black markings

Habitat: this damselfly is found in most wetlands

Flight Season: May to October

Range: southern half of Ontario

True Fact: This species is one of our most common damselflies. It can be seen quite far from water.

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Female eastern forktail, Photo: Noah Cole

male eastern forktail_chris_earley

Male eastern forktail, Photo: Chris Earley

Sedge Sprite

Nehalennia irene

Length: 26 – 27 mm

Description: male; metallic green above and light blue below; the tip of the abdomen is blue with metallic green spots; female is similar to the male but yellowish underparts and with only a small bit of blue on the tip of the abdomen

Habitat: vegetated wetlands and damp fields

Flight Season: June to August

Range: southern two-thirds of Ontario

True Fact: In some locations, this tiny damselfly can be very abundant but hard to see amongst the vegetation.

sedge sprite abdomen tip credit Chris Earley

Female sedge sprite, Photo: Chris Earley

sedge sprite male - chris earley_small

Male sedge sprite, Photo: Chris Earley

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