Deer in Spring Landscape

Maryland's Wildlife Species
Common Damselflies of Maryland


In Maryland, there are 3 main families of damselflies:

Broad-winged damsels (Calopterygidae),

Pond damsels (Coenagrionidae), and

Spreadwings (Lestidae).

Broad-winged Damsels
Family: Calopterygidae

Broad-winged damselflies tend to be large damselflies that have metallic colored bodies. Depending on the way light strikes their bodies, these damselflies may appear blue, green or bronze. The broad-winged damselfly group contains both jewelwings and rubyspots. Jewelwings have black wings or half black wings, while the Rubyspots show a red patch on the base of the wings. This is the only damselfly family in which the males display courtship behavior, and the females select mates.

Ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)

Ebony jewelwings can be found throughout Maryland. They have all black wings and metallic greenish-blue bodies that shimmer in the sun. Females can be distinguished from males by looking for white spots at the tops of their wings. The white spots are known as stigmas. These little damsels are anywhere from 1.5 to 2.25 inches in length and can be found along small and large streams.

Female & Male Ebony Jewelwings, photo by Kerry Wixted

Pond Damsels
Family: Coenagrionidae

Pond damselflies are the largest group of damselflies found in the United States. This damselfly family also contains over half of the damselfly species found worldwide, including the smallest species of damselfly. Pond damselflies range in color and size. Their wings tend to be attached to the body via a short stalk, as well as colorless and narrow.

Familiar bluet (Enallagma civile)

True its name, familiar bluets are mostly blue in color. Interestingly enough, the female may climb down the stem of a wetland plant and go completely underwater to lay her eggs. The male usually protects her from above the water. These damsels are generally 1.2-1.5 inches in length and can be found along most small bodies of water like ponds, stream and ditches. You may even be able to see these little gems in your backyard after a heavy rain!

Male familiar blue, Photo by Richard Orr

Fragile forktail (Ishnura posita)

Fragile forktails can be identified by marks on their thorax (segment behind their head) that resemble exclamation points. Males tend to have green marks while females tend to have blue or tan marks. Fragile forktails are diminutive damsels that get up to 1.1 inches in length. These damsels can be found along most small bodies of water, including ditches and marshes. Despite their small size, fragile forktails are adept predators which may feed on other bluets.

Male fragile forktail, photo by Kerry Wixted

Spread-wing Damsels
Family: Lestidae

This small family of damselflies defies the rule that only dragonflies rest with their wings held out to the sides. Only occasionally will spreadwings perch with their wings together. Spreadwings are fairly large damsels and are usually marked with metallic bronze or green. Males tend to have blue eyes and are more colorful than females.

Male slender spreadwing, photo by Richard Orr

For Additional Information, Contact:

Kerry Wixted
Wildlife and Heritage Service
580 Taylor Ave, E-1
Annapolis, MD 21401
kwixted@dnr.state.md.us
Phone: 410-260-8566
Fax: 410-260-8596

Acknowledgements:

  • Ebony jewelwings and fragile forktail by Kerry Wixted
  • Familiar bluet and slender spreadwing by Richard Orr