Argia agrioides
California Dancer is a common dancer of the arid interior foothills. With a close look at the legs (as we have above with digital photography), note that the length of the leg spines is decidedly longer than the distance between the spines. This helps identify this damsel as a dancer and not a bluet. Dancers are also larger than bluets and tend to sit on the ground or rocks instead of clinging to reeds like bluets.

There are two widespread dancers in MTY: Vivid Dancer — which I think of as the 'woodland' dancer — and California Dancer, which prefers the open grasslands and rocks. Both breed in nearby water but they are not restricted to the streams themselves as are, say, Sooty and Emma's Dancer. California Dancer lacks the black triangles on the sides of the abdominal segments that are so typical of Vivid Dancer, and has a black side-stripe on the thorax that is usually forked. It is also very much a pale blue-and-black dancer, while Vivid Dancer is a richer blue, sometimes bluish-violet, color.

Photos (above) 30 July 2006 Lopez Canyon, just W of Pinnacles NM
Photos (below) 5 Aug 2006 Arroyo Seco Lakes vicinity

California Dancer is essentially identical to Aztec Dancer A. nahuana, a widespread southwestern dancer. Aztec Dancer has not yet been recorded in MTY but that seems likely to occur, given that there are records for adjacent San Benito County.

The differences between California and Aztec Dancer are in the male appendages. There are several distinctions that may be seen with a 10X lens in-hand or, possibly, with close-up digital photography. Perhaps the most apparent involve the tori at the base of the male's superior appendages. Seen from above, the distance between the two tori is about the same as the width of each torus on California Dancer (right). On Aztec Dancer, the gap is less wide than either torus.

Note than on all the photos of male California Dancer, the entire 8th, 9th and 10th abdominal segments are blue. Bluets and forktails don't have this much blue at the end of the 'tail.'

Photo (above) 5 Aug 2006 Arroyo Seco
Photo (below) 30 July 2006 Lopez Canyon
Females come in blue andromorphic or tan gynomorphic patterns (those shown in tandem ovipositing, farther down this page, are gynomorphs). Immature males start out rather like females in color, and gain their sky-blue color as full adults. This one (below) still has a mostly pale violet upper thorax.
California Dancers oviposit in tandem, often with the male in the 'sentry' position (below). It this shot he looks to be leaning into the wind . . . this shot could be labeled "I am King of the World!" Probably only makes sense if you've seen the movie Titanic.
Photo (above & below) 9 Sep 2006 Arroyo Leona, FRE
In a small trickling stream through arid foothills, where ovipositing spots are at a premium, one might find several pairs congregating at the same place for the same purpose. Four are shown in the shot above, taken in the dry Coast Range foothills of Fresno County. If you look closely at the female in the shot above this one, you will see little black 'beads' attached to the underside of her abdomen. These are not part of the dancer but are the larvae of parasitic water mites.

The map shows a selection of locales at which California Dancer has been found. It is likely common throughout the arid interior foothills of the county. As yet there are no records anywhere near the foggy coast.

In MTY, the known flight dates stretch from 12 May to 9 September. Elsewhere in California, flight dates span April through November (Manolis 2003).

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 25 Mar 2007, revised 16 May 2007