Rhionaeshna multicolor 

Blue-eyed Darner is a widespread and common dragonfly throughout Monterey County. The vast majority are males seen in flight, patrolling territories, like the ones above. Territories tend to be over shallow open water on ponds, lakes, marshes, and river edges. Dragonflies are very difficult to photograph in flight, so it took many attempts to take these images.
photos (top two shots) 7 Oct 2006 Salinas River near Salinas MTY
photo (directly above) 19 Sep 2006 Laguna Grande MTY

Perched darners are rarely observed but are a lovely treat when encountered (above). Males have bright blue eyes, a blue face, brown thorax with blue stripes, and a multicolored abdomen of brown, black, and blue.
photos (above & below) 5 Oct 2006 Laguna Grande MTY
Females are not often seen because they come into the breeding territories only to mate or lay eggs, and spend the rest of their time away from water. It took me months to finally find a female perched (below) and she was quite old and beat up (notice the very ragged wings). Females have colorful patterns like males but typically the stripes and spots are green or yellow instead of blue, and the eyes can be yellow, green, or brown.
This captured female Blue-eyed shows in closer detail the complex pattern on the abdomen, the ovipositor under the 9th abdominal segment, and the simple cerci of female darners.
There are two important details to look for when Blue-eyed Darners are in-hand or seen very well in the field. The first is the small bump under the first abdominal segment (blue arrow) that is characteristic of the genus Rhionaeschna. Here in California, the only two members of the genus are Blue-eyed and California Darners. This bump is shown by both males and females.
On males, look for the distinctly forked cerci (upper appendages), with the uppermost prong a lot longer than the lower prong (detail right). This photo shows the tip of a perched Blue-eyed Darners sideways (the ode is actually hanging vertically).
However, it helps to illustrate the point that these forked cerci can often be seen in the field on male Blue-eyed Darners in flight. Indeed, this shot (left) is the same darner in flight as the headline photo at the top of this page, and illustrates that this distinctive pattern can be seen in the field.

For separation from California Darner by the male's terminal appendage and other features, see that species account.

The male and female Blue-eyed Darners (below) are "in wheel," or mating, while hanging to a tule stem on a small farm pond. Note that this female has blue-and-brown eyes, and blue spots on her abdomen. She is thus more similar to male Blue-eyed Darners than the green-and-yellow versions shown above. Females are exceeding variable in this species. After mating, females primarily oviposit on their own — not guarded by the male, nor in tandem. The ones I have observed have been ovipositing among emergent reeds at the edges of lakes and ponds.
Photo (above) 10 Aug 2006 near Soledad
When not patrolling mating territories, males — as well as females — forage widely over open country. Open grassy areas can be used as such feeding grounds; the shot (below) shows a male Blue-eyed Darner foraging over manicured lawn at Laguna Grande Park in Seaside, next to a Wandering Glider. On 24 July 2006, Rita Carratello and I watched over 40 darners hunting together at Laguna Grande in huge feeding assemblages. The next day, dozens of Blue-eyed Darners were foraging over coastal chaparral at Pt. Lobos State Reserve on a sunny day.
Blue-eyed Darner is common and widespread in Monterey County. The map (right) shows some representative locales at which it has been recorded, but it likely occurs everywhere throughout the lowlands, especially around water. It seems to generally avoid wooded and shady areas, and streams in the mountains appear to be dominated by Walker's Darner. Foragers and migrant Blue-eyed Darners could be seen anywhere, including montane ridges or even over open ocean. Blue-eyed Darner was the first dragonfly documented in the county, with one collected as long ago as 22 July 1919 (#Calif. Acadey of Sciences).

The full flight dates of Blue-eyed Darner in MTY are not yet documented. To date, records stretch from 8 June-2 December, but elsewhere in California this species has been seen from mid-March to November (Manolis 2003). MTY's late date is among the latest on record in the State.

I was very fortunate to find a perched Blue-eyed Darner during my very first day out looking for odes. I took this photo (below). This success surely helped to 'hook' me on searching for these beautiful insects.
Photo (above) 7 July 2006 Carmel River mouth
This is a perched female right near the end of the season: indeed, the date (2 Dec) is among the latest documented in California. Notice that this particular female is andromorphic — her pattern is like a blue-and-brown male except for the brown eyes, brown face, and female terminal appendage plus vulvar spine — while the females earlier on the page were gymomorphic (i.e., having a distinct green-and-brown female pattern).
Photo (above) 2 Dec 2006 Carmel River mouth

Literature cited:
  • Manolis, T. 2003. Dragonflies and Damselflies of California. Univ. of Calif. Press, Berkeley.
Web resources:
Major identification web sites with much information on California odes include: For sites with excellent photos to compare for identification or to simply enjoy, see: Many of these sites have links to other useful pages. Kathy Biggs's site is particularly useful in her selection of links.

All photos © Don Roberson 2007


Page created 6-9 Oct 2006, updated 3 Dec 2006