Bluet Damselflies

You’ve likely seen this friendly blue damselfly fluttering around shorelines, resting on grasses, or even on your boat, kayak or fishing rod.

Slender Bluet (Enallagma traviatum) male-8449

A Male Slender Bluet Damselfly photographed in the Meet Your Neighbours style by Twan Leenders.

Among the many species of damselflies, there is a category called Bluets that covers many of the species in which the male is at least partially colored blue. All of the members are gorgeous, with bodies colored a variety of shades of blues, greens, and turquoises. They also have some interesting striping patterns, with the location and size of darker stripes being a good way to distinguish different species.

Damselflies can be easily mistaken for dragonflies. One major distinguish difference is that the damselflies hold their wings tucked upright tight against their body, while dragonflies hold their hind-wings straight out from their bodies like airplane wings. Another difference between dragonflies and damselflies is the location of their eyes. Dragonflies have eyes that touch and are located at the top of the head, while damselflies have eyes that are well separated.

Slender Bluet (Enallagma traviatum) female-8451

A female Slender Bluet, photographed in the Meet Your Neighbours style by Twan Leenders. Note that the damselfly is holding its wings together while at rest.

Female Damselflies lay their eggs in submerged vegetation and when the eggs hatch the young nymph damselflies are fully formed.   Damselfly nymphs come in varying shades of green or tan and possess finlike gills.   These nymphs spend the winter underwater, where they molt (shed their skin) roughly one dozen times while growing. When nymphs are approximately 1 inch long, they emerge from the water and break out of their skin one last time and become adults.   Adults typically live less than two weeks, spending their final days feeding and breeding.

Here we have a pair of Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile) damselflies in a “wheel”, a male and female joined together for mating. They are perched at a pond in this case but they can also fly this way. The male will likely remain with her until she lays the eggs.


A pair of Familiar Bluet Damselflies mating. Photographed by Twan Leenders.

Bluet damselflies don’t sting or bite humans, but they are formidable predators of other insects. The nymphs hide in underwater vegetation and ambush the larvae of insects such as mosquitoes and mayflies.   The damselflies large eyes and ability to fly in any direction make adult damselflies excellent aerial hunters. Damselflies typically prey on mosquitoes, small moths, flies, and mayflies. What’s more the presence of damselflies at freshwater sites usually indicates clean water, abundant native vegetation, and other aspects of a healthy ecosystem.

It is prime time to spot the bluet damselflies, which are out in great numbers during the months of June and July. So get out there to any local bodies of water to see what you can find!

The Teacher’s Teachers

Hi, I’m Tina Scherman, Roger Tory Peterson Institute’s educator.  I occasionally “hang with” the PWA Ambassadors.  Although I provide some education when I get questions from them which I can sometimes answer, it is actually they who are are educating me.  They are in a constant state of discovery and there is so much they can tell me.

For example, I am aware of and admire dragonflies and damselflies but know little about them.  The other week when kayaking on the Chadakoin River with the Ambassadors I noticed damselflies skimming over the water in tandem.  I deduced that these damselflies were mated pairs.  Encouraged by an ambassador to look closer I could see that only the one in front was actually flying.  The ambassador explained that this was the male, identified by his brighter color.  He was carrying the female as she tapped the surface of the water with her abdomen, depositing eggs.  The ambassador further pointed out that the pair would “make a circle” where the female would swing her long abdomen up and touch the male’s abdomen to pick up sperm.

Orange Bluet (Enallagma signatum) damselfly-4266

Originally I could identify the creatures I saw that day on the river as damselflies but the PWA ambassador knew that these damselflies were Bluets, a particular group of damselflies. What’s more I learned that there are many different species of Bluets including an Orange Bluet.

Here I was the nature teacher seeing pretty little blue damselflies flitting over the water with only a vague knowledge of who they were and what they were doing being taught by someone fulfilling his role, that of Ambassador for nature study.