Posts Tagged 'damselflies'

Fragile Forktails

Ischnura positaA mature female Ischnura posita. Ischnura positaAn immature female. Inch-long damsels, these. Eat more mosquitos, ladies!

Ischnura positaA mature male. The exclamation mark on the shoulder is tell-tale for this species, but it can fade with age.

Damsels & Dragons

Argia apicalisThe Blue-fronted Dancer (Argia apicalis). One and half inches long, found along the Bronx River and further away on woodland paths. I’m getting better at distinguished these wee things, which means getting closer with lens of varying sorts. This is a male. Species IDs include the black hair-line markings on the thorax and the blue of the last three segments of the abdomen (compare with the slightly smaller Azure Bluet below). I saw two other damsels on the same paths and figured I had at least two species between the three different types, but it turned out that there are two variations for the female: Argia apicalisa brown form;Argia apicalisand a blue form. Note the absence of a colorful final trio of segments on the abdomen; there are instead tan lines on top and side of segments 8 and 9. Ed Lam’s Damselflies of the Northeast remains the single best source for nailing the identity of these slender flying jewels.

Single click on these images to get larger versions for more detail.

The Odonata, the order of insects that is made up by damselflies and dragonflies, have ten segments to their abdomens, counting from the thorax. Here’s a male Azure Bluet (Enallagma aspersum):Enallagma aspersumIn this species, segment 7 is extensively blue, a tell-tale mark. Note also the much wider mid dorsal stripe on the thorax and the large eye spots.
Perithemis teneraOur smallest dragonfly is the Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera), which is actually smaller, length-wise, than many species of damselflies. But note this thick, thick abdomen: very dragonfly, that, and especially so in the females, as here. This seems like a boom year for the species. Notice, though, that almost all the ones flying low over the edges of local waterbodies are male, staking out their territory and defending it. Their territory: good egg-laying sites. The females, who have splotchy instead of amber wings, are usually found elsewhere, for instance, up in the meadows as in this case, until they venture down for a bout of the ol’ oingo-boingo.


Perithemis teneraI was enjoying the life above the Duckweed (Lemnaceae) recently, marveling that I’ve never seen so many Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera).Pachydiplax longipennisThere were also a few Blue Dashers (Pachydiplax longipennis), making more Blue Dashers.A damselfly of unknown provenance was depositing eggs.

And then, along the edge of the lake, some disturbance from below. There was an agitated simmering, not quite bubbling. I wondered what it might be. Then, rising, a mass of little black fish, tightly clumped together at the surface, swarming over each other, some half out of the water momentarily. They were feasting on something. fish The individual fish visible on the edges of this mass had serious whiskers, barbels, making me think of some kind of catfish. What the hell, I took the plunge.fishI’m taking a semi-wild guess that these are Black Bullheads (Ameiurus melas); what do you think?fishThe barbels are flush to the sides here.LemnaceaeAs an added benefit of my open-handed catch and release, the underside of the Duckweed, some of the smallest flowering plants anywhere, is revealed as purple.

Flying Now

Vanessa carduiPainted Lady (Vanessa cardui). I’ve posted previously about separating these from the similar American Lady butterflies (Vanessa virginiensis); from this view, the four big wing spots mark the Painted; two big spots the American.Enallagma signatumOrange Bluet (Enallagma signatum) male. Small and slender, but striking when you see it: at Green-Wood’s Sylvan Water. Enallagma signatumAt the nearby Valley Water, the Orange Bluets were mating. Anax juniusCommon Green Darners (Anax junius) were also reproducing there. Here the male continues to hold the female as she deposits eggs. I have seen females of the species depositing eggs on her own, sans the grip.ThorybesNorthern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades). Enallagama civileI wish there was a special place in hell for the people who just toss their butts any- and everywhere (take a look down street gratings some day). This Familiar Bluet (Enallagama civile) male seems to be less censorious. CercerisA couple of Cerceris genus wasps were hanging out on some rogue squash plants on the edge of the Long Meadow.Pholisora catullusCommon Sootywing (Pholisora catullus) hitting the light just right on pollinator-magnet Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis).

Three Wee Damselflies

Ischnura positaFragile Forktail (Ischnura posita) male. Tell-tale broken strip on the thorax like an exclamation point. One of the inch-long damsels.Ischnura positaAnd this looks like the female Fragile Forktail.Ischnura kellicottiImmature female Lilypad Forktail (Ischnura kellicotti). Just over an inch long. Without binoculars or telephoto, it’s hard to see this gorgeous orange color.

damselAnd some kind of bluet…

Lilypad Forktail

Ischnura kellicottiLilypad Forktail (Ischnura kellicotti) male damselfly on a lily pad. The location was a big clue to identifying this small damselfly (a fair number of damselfly species are electric blue), which spends its life on and around waterlilies. The downward bending of the abdomen tip when it poses is also characteristic of this species. The females can be orange. exuviaAnother water body, another species of lily. This is an exuvia, the shed skin of a nymph stage damsel- or dragonfly. What kind I don’t know. I’ve usually found them on verticals — reeds, etc. — on which the nymph climbs up out of the water when it’s time to erupt and sprout wings.

More Odes

Tramea carolinaCarolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina). The abdomen is red all the way to the black tip, but that’s impossible to see in this light. Two of these were patrolling the pond aggressively and charging at each other over and over to maintain dominance. They were about 12-15 feet up, and overhead they can easily be mistaken for genus-mate Black Saddlebags (T. lacerata). These shots were from a couple of brief moments of perching. Tramea carolinaDetail of the amazing color and venation of the wings. Erythemis simpliciollisHow many wings? Shadow play with a female Common/Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simpliciollis). My loose list of dragonfly species seen at Brooklyn Bridge Park now includes: Common Green Darner, Great Blue Skimmer, Blue Dasher, 12-Spotted Skimmer, Common (Eastern) Pondhawk, Black Saddlebags, Carolina Saddlebags, Painted Skimmer, Spot-winged Glider, and Eastern Amberwing. Those red meadowhawks, who never seem to stop flying, still elude me as to their identity (genus Sympetrum are “an intractable field problem” notes my guide). Ischnura hastataDamselflies, however, are still a work in progress. I mean that both for my own ID skills and the damage done by Sandy, which I think really reduced the damselfly population this season at Brooklyn Bridge Park. I saw four individual damselflies on this walk. This is a male Citrine Forktail (Ishnura hastata), just about an inch long. Even though it flew slowly and perched frequently, it never got out of the sedges so was a moving needle in a green haystack to photograph. You can just barely see the red stigmas in the forewings (click image to see larger version). The male of the species is unique in the world of damselflies: their red-orange forewing stigmas (or ptereostigma) are not on the leading edge of the wing, but rather one level of venation in. Stigmas are single cells that differ in color and texture from the rest of the wing. Not all damsels have stigmas. And some species have pseudostigmas, which are multicellular areas of contrasting color but otherwise similar in structure to the rest of the wing. I better stop while I’m ahead….Ischnura positaThe Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posits), at just under an inch long.

(Dragonflies and Damselflies are both members of the order Odonata, from the Greek for “toothed,” known as “odes” for short to admirers.)Dasher teed upBlue Dashers characteristically “teed up” on bare branches. Car antenna will work also, and so will the cables connecting lamp posts at Atlantic and Henry Streets; in fact, I’m seeing these things everywhere lately now that I know what to look for.


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