Blue-fronted Dancer Damselfly - Argia apicalis
Order Odonata / Suborder Zygoptera
/ Family Coenagrionidae -- narrow-winged damselflies
Insects | Odonata Index | Dragonflies | Damselflies | Bugs Index | Spiders
Live adult damselflies photographed at DuPage County, Illinois, USA
The raptorial front legs combined with some serious ripping mouthparts make these otherwise ethereal creatures fearsome predators.  Sometimes they are precision flyers and make a clean, mid-air intercept, but I've seen them miss even slowly flying moths repeatedly as well. Often I've seen them pounce on resting or nectaring insects.

Their large bulbous compound eyes provide a vision field of 300 degrees. This insect needs binocular vision to maintain their predatory flying capture ability.

"All Odonates have excellent vision. Each compound eye is comprised of several thousand elements known as facets or ommatidia. These ommatidia contain light sensitive opsin proteins, thereby functioning as the visual sensing element in the compound eye. But unlike humans, which only have 2 or 3, sometimes 4 opsin proteins, day-flying dragonfly species have four or five different opsins, allowing them to see colors that are beyond human visual capabilities, such as ultraviolet (UV) light."  [1]


Live adult female damselfly photographed at West Branch Forest Preserve, DuPage County, Illinois, USA.
Damselflies complete a life cycle in one or two years. The adults mate over the shallow water, sometimes in flight but often while clinging to the exposed portions of weed beds or shoreline vegetation. Immediately after mating, the female will crawl down the vegetation, and 'into' the water to lay her eggs on the submerged portion of the vegetation. Once the eggs are laid she will crawl back up the vegetation and repeat the process. When the eggs hatch they do not go through the larva and pupa transformations. The newly hatched damsel is just a smaller version of the later immature stages.

The damselfly nymph is carnivorous, obtaining live prey by ambush. The nymph will proceed through 10 to 12 instars, or molts, before becoming fully developed and ready to emerge as an adult. With each molt the nymph becomes somewhat darker in color. Finally the nymph will swim towards the shore and crawl into shoreline vegetation. While clinging to this vegetation the nymph's skin breaks along the wing case and out crawls a shortened version of the adult. Before taking flight, the new adult must pump body fluids into its abdomen and wings. Depending on the species, the adult will live for several weeks to several months before mating and dying.

The adult has four wings that fold over the back. The male of the most common variety in the interior is blue while the female is more of a slate color. For the nymph, a fairly large and bulbous head sits on a tubular shaped body. The eyes of the damsel are fairly pronounced but not as large or pronounced as the eyes of a dragonfly nymph. The tail is three feathery looking appendages. The tail is called the "caudal lamellae" and is actually three gills at the end of the abdomen.


Not-quite-a mating wheel: Male (left) is clasping female at the top of her thorax.
References
  1. GrrlScientist, 30,000 Facets Give Dragonflies a Different Perspective: The Big Compound Eye in the Sky
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Order Odonata: dragonflies and damselflies date back 300 million years, to the Carboniferous Period of the Paleozoic Era. These colorful, enchanting insects are revered second only to the butterflies in the popular psyche. Explore detailed close-up photographs of live, adult dragonflies and damselflies photographed in the wild.
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