Enallagma civile

Familiar Bluet is a tiny damselfly that is common and widespread. Males (above) are light blue with black bands and stripes. Familiar Bluet is among the bluets that have a lot more blue than black, particularly on the 3rd abdominal segment, which helps to separate it from another very common bluet, Tule Bluet.
photo (above) 1 Oct 2006 Carmel River mouth MTY

Female bluets are quite variable. The one "in wheel" (above) is almost as blue as the male but note that she has a lot more black on the upperside of her abdomen. Other females can be olive, tan or whitish instead of blue. The one below, for example, is washed with turquoise and olive. Female bluets are exceedingly similar to each other and while we can identify the one above, because it is mating with a male Familiar, the one below is only assumed to be a Familiar because there were males of that species nearby. However, both Familiar and Tule Bluets occur together, and occasionally interbreed (T. Manolis, in litt.), so the identity of females is really hypothetical only.
photo (above) 25 Sep 2006 Salinas River mouth
photo (below) 25 July 2006 near Salinas
Male Familiar Bluets are identified by the large fin-shaped upper appendages (cerci) that extend well beyond the lower appendages (paraprocts), and the two combined (left) give a long triangular shape to the abdominal tip. This shape can often be seen with binoculars and helps eliminate a suite of other bluets in which the paraprocts are longer than the cerci (e.g., Northern Bluet). Note also the distinctive pale lobe in the middle of the trailing edge of the dark cerci. Tule Bluet has a caruncle at the tip of its cerci that can be rather similar, but it tends to be at the upper tip of the upper appendage, not so much in the middle. Hybrids between Familiar and Tule Bluets are known, complicating the issue (Manolis 2003).

photo (left) 1 Oct 2006 Carmel River mouth
photo (below) 25 Sep 2006 Salinas River mouth

Immature males further complicate the picture. The areas that will be pale blue on mature males can be tinged olive (like the one below) or lavender-gray (Manolis 2003). In addition, the colors of any individual may change with temperature and age.

Familiar Bluets oviposit in tandem (above), with the female depositing eggs below the surface of a quiet backwater while the male hovers overhead, holding her by the back of the "neck."

When not engaged in reproductive behavior, flying Familiar Bluets, like all odonates, are voracious predators. This male (right) is dismembering and eating what looks like a small ant.

Familiar Bluets (like other bluets) are only about 1.5 inches long. Thus all the photos of this page are shown much larger than life size. It can be most interesting to view them close-up through a hand lens or the macro lens of a camera. Fortunately, this species is very common and widespread in California, and in Monterey County, and opportunities to observe them abound.

Photo (above) 23 July 2006 near Salinas
Photo (right) 29 July 2006 Pinnacles NM, San Benito Co.

Map Familiar BluetThis map shows only some areas where Familiar Bluet has been found. It probably occurs everywhere in the MTY lowlands where there are open marshes, drainage ditches, and quiet backwaters. However, it has not yet been observed higher into the foothills or along more shaded creeks of the Santa Lucia Range, where other bluets (e.g., Arroyo and Northern) seem to be more common. Familiar Bluets do, however, range well up into the Diablo Range and can be common in Pinnacles National Monument, San Benito Co.

MTY specimens of Familiar Bluet date back to 1942 (Hastings NHR) but their flight season in the county has not been fully documented. Data on files document records between 5 May-28 October, but elsewhere in California the flight season extends from March to early December (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 2-5 Oct 2006, revised 16 May 2007