Damselflies are ubiquitous at ponds and other slow moving areas of water throughout the United States. In total, approximately 135 species that fit into four families have been identified.
Damselfly identification can be made a bit easier by remembers of few identification rules of thumb.
First, like many dragonfly species, damselflies enjoy perching in the sun. Getting pictures and video clips of them is fairly easy and a great help for identification at a later date.
The video clip shows a pair of Firetail damselflies mating.
Second, with the exception of three or four species of Shadowdamsels and Threadtails in Arizona and Texas, the bulk of damselfly species fit into three families, the broad-winged, narrow-winged and spread-winged. Based solely on the names, the shape and the position of the wings are a great way to begin the damselfly identification tasks.
Species from both of the broadwing genera can be found near ponds and slow moving creeks and waterways around the United States. The focus on Broad-winged damselflies also points to a second good damselfly identification rule of thumb, color.
For example, the Rubyspots, as shown in the top picture, consist of three species easily identified by the broad wings with a red spot on it.
Jewelwings consist of five species and are easily recognized by their green bodies and broad wigs with dark spots or hues to them.
Spreadwing damselflies (Family Lestidae) can be initially identified by their open wings while perching. The divide into two genera and about twenty species. The Lestes account for most of the species. The picture shows a Slender Spreadwing. They are common through most of the Eastern United States.
From the fairly common to the fairly rare category comes the Rainpool Spreadwing. It is a local specialty of the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
In the United States, the narrow winged damselflies, the typical damselflies seen at local ponds and backyards (Family Coenagrionidae) account for approximately 100 of the 125 identified species. When it comes to damselfly identification, the odds are very high that the typical damselfly anyone sees, fits into this family.
As a group they tend to be weak flyers. They tend to perch on low branches and leaves, making it fairly easy to take pictures of them.
Damselfly identification in the narrow-winged family gets a bit easier then because the bulk of species fit inot one of three genera:
- American Bluets (Enallagma)
- Forktails (Ischnura)
- Dancers (Argia)
Before you go, here’s a quick overview of species from three additional narrow-winged genera. The top picture of the Western Red Damsel (genus Amphiagrion) shows the basic look for both it and the Eastern Red Damsel counterpart. Often either of the two species would be the best first guess for any small red damselfly found along slow moving waters.
In the southern areas of the United States from California east to Florida a handful of Firetail species (Telebasis) also have red bodies.
Finally, the Painted Damsels (Hesperagrion heterodoxum), genera does not quite exhaust the entire set of genera within the narrow-winged damselfly family. It’s a convenient place to wrap up the category. The colorful tail and eyes, insures an easy identification in the field. They are a Southwest specialty.