Ebony jewelwing

ebony jewelwing male 1

If you go for a walk near almost any wooded stream in the eastern U.S. or Canada this time of year, especially in the early afternoon, you’ll probably see this damselfly — the ebony jewelwing, Calopteryx maculata. Its aquatic larvae live in or behind debris dams in smaller streams, which I guess would tend to make them more numerous in older forests with more coarse woody debris. The adult males are easy to identify with their metallic blue or green abdomens, and the females are even more distinctive with the white spots, or stigmas, on the ends of their wings.

ebony jewelwing female

The males battle each other for territory, aeriel duels that might be more spectacular if they weren’t such weak flyers. However, this latter feature makes for extremely cooperative photographic subjects: males and females spend many long seconds at a time resting on sunlit leaves. Females are relatively more sedentary than males, who not only try to keep other males out of their territory, but engage in what’s called mate-guarding at the same time. Biologists who have studied C. maculata have concluded that the main function of the stigmas is to make the females easier for the males to keep track of.

ebony jewelwing female 2

You can view all five of my ebony jewelwing photos here. See also Bev’s post about the species here.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

6 Comments


  1. Very fine pictures, Dave. We have themvery much like that, I find them more enchanting than dragonflies, but I didn’t know they were called that.

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  2. I love seeing these beautiful photos. We don’t have the Ebony Jewelwing here, so it’s really quite a sight. Such deep, dark wings. I have found it difficult to photograph damsel and dragonflies. You’re lucky that these were so cooperative.

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  3. Thanks, Lucy and robin andrea. These certainly are among the most cooperative damsel flies or dragonflies, and it’s nice to have such photos to post at a time when I really don’t feel able to write.

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  4. The last one reminds me of another of your see-through leaves. It’s really splendid!

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  5. i am still thinking about and writing (in my head) in response to “blogging and impermanance” there is so much there to ponder (thanks!) but then a coupla days ago, I was at the top of the pasture hill near the woods and watched a couple of male ebony jewel wings flitting at the edge of the woods, so had to comment here, because there we were, on the same day, watching the same thing, at such a distance! (only my photos weren’t worth a post, sun too bright) Anyway.
    Reckon what they were doing so far from the creek if they are weak flyers? There is absolutely no water up there (we are in extreme drought here) Maybe they do some sort of leapfrog flight, from plant to plant and were hunting more water and wound up there? why up?

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