Checklist provided by Ron Lyons

as adopted by the Dragonfly Society of the Americas
(Argia, vol.8, no.2, 1 August 1996)

New links &/or information was added to this page or at least one of the family pages of
CA Damselflies on
MARCH 27, 2000

The CA distribution maps were last updated on SEPTEMBER 11, 2000. Click here to access distribution in nearby states

I (Kathy Biggs) will be giving an evening program with slides, "The Dazzling Dragonflies of Sonoma County", on Monday, April 17th for Madrone Audubon in Santa Rosa. If you are interested in attending please email me for more information, including directions. All Madrone Audubon programs are open to the public and there is no admittance fee. At this program I will announce my summer dragonfly walks.

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

Available this May (2000)!
Common DRAGONFLIES of California
A Beginner's Pocket Guide

by Kathy Biggs

To learn more about these fascinating insect's life cycle go to "Damsels and Dragons - the Insect Order Odonata". This article by Ron Lyons, which first appeared in the Internet Pond Society's "The Internet Ponder's Online Magazine", was written in 1997 for the "Critter's in Your Pond" column I was writing at the time.


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 checklists, 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 of UCDavis, CA, 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:

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

CA Insects = California Insects by Jerry Powell and Charles Hogue

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

Western Forest =The Audubon Society Nature Guides - Western Forest

Kansas Checklist = Checklist of Kansas Damselflies - The Kansas School Naturalist 1998

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

* = 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



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 abdomen when perched
males have a bump under their second abdominal segment which is their genitalia;
four terminal abdominal appendages which include sexual claspers;
often blue and black patterned
females have a 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: when perched, wings are usually held together sail- like over their abdomen;
weak flyers, usually found not too far from water;
oviposit into plant tissue

body parts
Sketch by Barbara Chasteen

*Key to larva in Michigan, UMMZ

The Emergence of a Damselfly provided by An Ottawa Valley Naturalist

FAMILY Calopterygidae

Broad-winged Damselflies

New links

&/or information

was added to this site

on MARCH 22, 2000

2 CA genera

sizes: large, lengths 25 - 51 mm

description: wings broaden gradually from the base;
bodies green or black

Photo by Ken Wilson

*Key to larva in Michigan, UMMZ

FAMILY Lestidae


New links

&/or information

was added at this site

on MARCH 22, 2000

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

*Key to larva in Michigan, UMMZ

FAMILY Coenagrionidae

Pond Damsels

aka Stalk-winged or Narrow-winged

New links

&/or information

was added at this site

on MARCH 22, 2000

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: more stout than males;
most are tan where the males are blue but some are colored male-like

behavior: wings held sail-like over abdomen when perched

habitats: quite variable, still waters, quiet streams

Photo by James Lasswell

CA Insects-p46 #19, 20

Audubon Guide- naiad pl. 35 &39

*Key to larva in Michigan, UMMZ

Available this May (2000)!
Common DRAGONFLIES of California
A Beginner's Pocket Guide

by Kathy Biggs

Includes damselflies

click here to go to CA Dragonflies

Send e-mail to Kathy Biggs if you would like to request a field list of California Odonata that you can down load

(Word 7.0 doc 32K)

For help in identifying CA Odonata, I would refer you to a "FIELD KEY TO ADULT WASHINGTON DRAGONFLIES" by Dennis R. Paulson. This key includes damselflies. Until a CA key exists, the WA key is the `closest to home' and has many of the same species. (There is one 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 I refer you to Ron Lyon's informative site:

Damsels and Dragons - the Insect Order Odonata.

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 list please send e-mail to Kathy Biggs