Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ebony Jewelwings

Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly male

Ebony Jewelwing female

     Due to their size, habitat, and beauty, Ebony Jewelwings (Calopteryx maculata) are among the easiest damselflies to identify. They are large for damselflies (about 2") and are one of the few that like to be in woodland settings, along slow moving water. They are quite conspicuous not just due to their size and habitat, but also because they flutter almost butterfly-like. Males have very dark wings and iridescent bodies. Females are slightly smaller, less dark, and have a conspicuous white spot at the tip of their wings. Their scientific name translates to "beautiful wing with a spot" actually. When the sunlight hits them, they are quite beautiful to behold.
     In general, damselflies are more slender than their dragonfly cousins. Both are in the order Odonata and feed on insects throughout their their lives. The aquatic larvae (called naiads or nymphs in Odonates) of damselflies have 3 tail-like gills they breath through. Dragonfly larvae are stockier and can use a form of jet propulsion by ejecting water out their rear ends. Both spend the majority of their lives in this aquatic stage.
     As adults, dragonflies hold their wings flat out to their sides while sitting. Damselflies (usually) hold their wings over their bodes (see photo) or slightly spread above their abdomens. Dragonfly eyes are huge and almost touch at the top of their heads. Damselfly eyes are barbell-like, separated in the middle and normally sticking out to their sides. Both are superb hunters.
     Ebony jewelwings are not as spectacular fliers as some of their cousins, fluttering and not being as fast as others. Once they're adults, they only live for about two weeks, having fleeting but beautiful and beneficial lives. Keep an eye out for them, especially in sunny openings in otherwise shady woods near water. If approached slowly, you can get fairly close, with them turning their heads to keep an eye on you before they flutter off a few feet and taking up watch again.

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