Checkdamsels originally provided by Ron Lyons
as originally adopted by the Dragonfly Society of the Americas
(Argia, vol.8, no.2, 1 August 1996)
with all current revisions.

Information for this site has been collected and edited Kathy Biggs who assumes full responsibility.

New links &/or information - added to this page or at least one of the pages of
CA Damselflies in

The CA distribution maps were last updated in 2006. Click here to access distribution in nearby states
Request an Excel chart of CA Dragonfly distribution by county by emailing Kathy

To join the CalOdes dragonfly & damselfly discussion
group, click on the Yahoo! button

Click here to go to a list of programs and field trips being given about CA's Dragonflies

shortcut to Broad-winged Damselflies , or to Spreadwings, or to Pond Damsels, or to or to Dragonfly Families


Distribution Maps are maintained by Tim Manolis. They are based on information originally collected by Dennis Paulson (see address below) and they are now being updated by new sightings and specimens found in museum collections. If you find a species in a new county please contact Kathy and/or Tim.

Information for this site has been collected and edited by Kathy Biggs who assumes full responsibility.

This site was begun in 1997 because of my frustrations in trying to identify the damselflies that came to visit our garden pond. I discovered that there were no `identification guides' for the species found in California. Therefore I began searching the Internet, libraries and museums for checkdamsels, photographs and information. I want to especially thank Ron Lyons who made available the Checklist of CA Species and who was a great beginning `tutor' in all things Odonata, and Dennis Paulson of Washington, who along with Rosser Garrison did the research to create the information used in Ron's list and who has been invaluable to me in learning about these fascinating insects. Also of great encouragement and help have been these other experts, any of which I'm certain would also be willing to help you if you have questions: Andy Rehn, the staff at the California Academy of Science's Department of Entomology, Roy Beckemeyer of Kansas, Bob Barber of New Jersey and Mark O'Brien of Michigan. I'd of course also like to thank all of the photographers. Both those who have allowed me to link to their sites in the web sites photo column, and those who have sent me their photographs &/or jpegs to use on the website. Their photos have made learning to identify dragonflies and damselflies possible.

The damselfly families with links indicated below have been found in California.

References to pictures are as follows:

CA Dragonflies = Common Dragonflies of California, A Beginner's Pocket Guide by Kathy Biggs

CA Dragons&Damsels=Dragonflies and Damselflies of California by Tim Manolis, UCPress, April 2003

CA+SW Dragonflies = Dragonfleis of California &Common Dragonflies the Southwest, A Beginner's Pocket Guide by Kathy Biggs 2006 (Dust-jacketed version)

LA Insects = Insects of the Los Angeles Basin by Charles Hogue

SW Dragonflies = Common Dragonflies the Southwest, A Beginner's Pocket Guide by Kathy Biggs 2004

Dragonflies of Washington = Dragonflies of Washington by Dennis Paulson, Seattle Audubon Society 1999

Stokes Guide = Beginner's Guide to Dragonflies by Blair Nikula, Jackie Sones. A Stokes Guide. May 2002

Audubon Guide = Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders

CA Insects = California Insects by Jerry Powell and Charles Hogue

* = photo/scan(s)/key available to see at this Internet website

Scientific Name

Common Name

Archaic Name


Habitat/Flight Dates

Picture in book

*Photo/scan at website



CA has about 40 species representing 3 of the 5 American families

description: slender-bodied, generally smaller and frailer than dragonflies;
eyes set far apart, farther apart than 1 diameter;
appear hammer headed;
wings held together over or alongside abdomen when perched

males: bump under their second abdominal segment which is their secondary genitalia;
four terminal abdominal appendages which include their claspers;
often blue and black patterned

females: wide ovipositor on the lower end of their abdomen;
only two terminal abdominal appendages;
usually duller colored than males, often tan and black patterned

behavior: weak flyers, usually found not too far from water;
oviposit into plant tissue
males often tandem guard ovipositing females; often in sentinel position

nymph: slender and elongate - unlike dragonfly nymph;
3 gills at end of abdomen;
thorax & abdomen slender - not wider or narrower than head;
cryptic colored, slow-moving clingers to aquatic vegetation/debris/rocks

body parts
Sketch by Barbara Chasteen

CA Dragonflies p. 56

CA Dragons&Damsels p. 5

CA+SW and SW Dragonflies p. 91

Stokes Guide - inside back cover

*Key to larva in Michigan, UMMZ

*Damselflies of the Southwest

FAMILY Coenagrionidae

Pond Damsels

aka Stalk-winged or Narrow-winged

New images, links &/or information was added to this site
in 2007

8 CA genera - totaling 30 species

sizes: mostly small, some med.; lengths 20 - 47 mm

description: males and some females brightly colored;
usually blue and black with varying degrees of blue on abdomens;
clear wings with small stigma are narrow at base

females: less colorful; stouter than males;
most are tan where the males are blue but some are colored male-like

behavior: wings held sail-like over or alongside abdomen when perched

habitats: quite variable, but mostly still waters, quiet streams

Photo by James Lasswell

CA Dragonflies p. 57

CA Dragons&Damsels p. 50-51

CA Insects-p46 #19, 20

CA+SW and SW Dragonflies p. 91

Audubon Guide- naiad pl. 35 &39

Stokes Guide - p. 1, 32

*Pond Damsels of the Southwest

*Key to larva in Michigan, UMMZ

FAMILY Lestidae


New images, links &/or information was added to this site
in 2007

2 CA genera

sizes: medium to large, slender, 31- 62 mm

description: clear wings that narrow to stalks at base;
wings held spread when at rest

males: dark with blues, greens;
blue eyes; pruinose pale area near tip;
some show more extensive pruinosity

females: stouter, less colorful

behaviors: unique posture - hold their wings mostly open (but not flat) when at rest, (like stealth bombers)

habitat: mostly found in mountain ponds, marshes, & streams

Photo by Bob Claypole

CA Dragonflies p. 70

CA Dragons&Damsels p. 41

CA+SW and SW Dragonflies p. 57

Stokes Guide - p. 1, 31

*Spreadwings of the Southwest

*Key to larva in Michigan, UMMZ

FAMILY Calopterygidae

Broad-winged Damselflies

New images, links &/or information was added to this site
in 2007

2 CA genera

sizes: large, lengths 25 - 51 mm

description: wings broaden gradually from the base;
bodies bluish green or reddish black;
often referred to as `jewelwings' due to the gem-like coloring of their bodies &/or wings

behavior: males court females with a 'dance';
females may go underwater to oviposit

Photo by Dave Biggs

CA Dragons&Damsels p. 39

CA+SW and SW Dragonflies p. 57

Stokes Guide - p. 1, 30

*Broadwings of the Southwest

*Key to larva in Michigan, UMMZ

DRAGONFLIES of California and
Common DRAGONFLIES of the Southwest
A Beginner's Pocket Guide

by Kathy Biggs
(includes damselflies)

A coloring book -
Dragonflies of North America
A Color and Learn Book
with Activities

May 2007 Click here for more information

by Kathy Biggs and Tim Manolis

For children, grandchildren & your inner child!

For help in identifying CA Odonata, go to "FIELD KEY TO ADULT CALIFORNIA DRAGONFLIES (ODONATA)" .
This is a BETA version key and it includes damselflies. It needs field testing. (There is also an OLD key using wing venation and sexual appendages in "Aquatic Insects of California" by Unsinger, but this has been out of print for several years. The California Library system should have copies of Unsinger's book available for in-library reference work).

To learn more about these fascinating insects go to Ron Lyon's informative site:
Damsels and Dragons - the Insect Order Odonata.

To encourage dragonflies and damselflies, build a pond "and they will come!"
Read Kathy's article The Pleasures of Wildlife Ponding by clicking here.


Click here to go to the Biggs's Wildlife Pond


here to go to the Biggs's Pond Wildlife Sightings List with links to photos of some of our visitors


Click here to see pictures of the Biggs's pond and its development.

If you have any corrections or additions to this site please send e-mail to Kathy Biggs