Damselflies

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Damselflies, Pacific Northwest

Boreal Bluet Damselflies
Boreal Bluet Damselfly, Photo By Bud Logan

The adult damselflies are often mistaken for dragonflies but if you look closely there are many differences. Damselflies can close their wings parallel and over their back. They also have a body small in length with finer features compared to dragonflies. They are seen more often than the dragonflies.

Their life cycle usually lasts one year although some species can live for two years. The damselflies mate while attached to weeds or on shorelines. The female then climbs down farther down into the weeds and dips her body into the water to lay the eggs. Once her eggs have been laid, she crawls back to the top to mate again.

Western Forktail Damselflies
Western Forktail Damselfly, Photo By Bud Logan

The nymph goes through about 12 stages or molts before developing into a mature adult. While in the nymph stage they feed by laying in wait for tiny aquatic insects to get close and then they grab and devour them.

When the time has come to emerge, the nymph swims towards the land to climb on the weeds or plants. While attached to the weed, the skin will break loose along the wing area. The first thing the new damselfly does is to push or pump body fluids to its stomach and wings. The new form will lengthen to resemble the other adults of its kind.

The damselfly is about two and a half centimeters long when it emerges as an adult. The nymphs not yet ready to emerge will migrate in the fall to deeper waters where it will hibernate till the following spring and the process starts again.

These guys are small and very beautiful, you see them in pairs or more around ponds and other sources of water.

Pacific Forktail Damselfly
Pacific Forktail Damselfly, Photo By Bud Logan
South Vancouver Island has some pacific forktails and they have been seen on Quadra Island opposite Campbell River. They are not as common as the western forktails.

The Pacific forktail is a small little damselfly. Only 2.5 cm in length, the male is nonetheless easily recognized by the four tiny blue dots atop the black upper surface of the thorax.

Females have a bewildering array of patterns as they change from immature to old, dark, adults. In all cases, though, the abdomen is rather thin and long.

Beyond the thorax pattern, males are characterized by aqua blue sides to the thorax, black atop the abdomen, and an extensive blue patch on several segments. Note also the green lower half to the eyes and around the face.

Youngsters often have a thorax that is white, tan, pale green, or pale blue, with thin side stripes, but apparently, some can even be orange. All young female pacific forktails, though, have orange spots between the eyes on the back of the head.

Boreal Bluet Damselfly
Boreal Bluet Damselfly, Photo By Bud Logan

Boreal Bluet damselflies are small, blue, damselflies that are more blue than black. The third abdominal segment is more than 50% blue. Black stripe on side of the thorax is not uniformly thick but is pinched in the middle.

These active creatures are harmless to humans, but they are voracious predators of small flying insects such as flies and mosquitoes.

Vancouver Island has a large resident population of the Boreal Bluet Damselfly. You can see the Boreal Bluet from the arctic circle all the way to Mexico. From the Eastern seaboard to the Gulf of Mexico.

Alkali Bluet Damselfly
Alkali Bluet Damselfly, Photo By Bud Logan
This is a small damselfly only up to 3.5 cm long. The males are blue on the sides of the thorax, and the upper side of the abdomen. Females are light blue on the thorax to greenish yellow on the tail. The upper side of the abdomen is mostly black, except for segment eight, which is blue.

The nymph is about 2.5 cm long and has the typical slender shape of immature damselflies. They can range in color from green to light brown. The alkali bluet can be seen around river and creek estuaries where the water has a higher salt content. They can be found on all parts of Vancouver Island and they are quite common.

The nymphs eat a wide variety of aquatic insects, including mosquito larvae along with other aquatic fly larvae. The adults eat a variety of small, soft-bodied flying insects such as mosquitoes, flies and small moths. The males stake out territories at choice breeding sites. After mating, the female alkali bluet oviposits on floating mats of decaying algae.

I love hiking around ponds and small lakes looking for both Damselflies and Dragonflies, they are so very fascinating to observe in the wild. If you stand still long enough, they will land on you.

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