The Damselflies & Dragonflies of Monterey County, California

This is a peer-reviewed Checklist of the Odonata of Monterey County, California. The Checklist provides links to Species Pages; click on any photo or Species Page reference. There is also a reference to habitat and flight dates. Details on the review process – and a key to the habitat and date columns — follows the Checklist, as does a short discussion of taxonomy.

Specimens and diagnostic photos are considered of equal weight in fully documenting Monterey records. To date, two species are supported solely by sight records: White-belted Ringtail and Red Saddlebags. Photos that upgrade the status of these species — or document additional species — would be very welcome.

There are currently 48 species on the MTY ode Checklist.

A history and chronology of the MTY Odonata Checklist is reached by clicking on the link or the photo below.

"MTY" is an abbreviation used for Monterey County. Should you obtain records that add to our information, including new sites not shown on the Species Page maps, or new early or late flight dates, please email me.

Don Roberson
DAMSELFLIES [Zygoptera]
COMMON NAME
SCIENTIFIC NAME
IDENTIFICATION & PHOTOS
HABITAT
DATE SPAN
RUBYSPOTS & JEWELWINGS  Family Calopterygidae
American Rubyspot Hetaerina americana
American Rubyspot
See Species Page
for more
Widespread along rocky creeks (Feb) Apr–Oct (Nov)
SPREADWINGS Family Lestidae
California Spreadwing Archilestes californica
California Spreadwing
See Species Page for more
Slow streams & backwaters near willow patches (June) Oct (Nov)
Spotted Spreadwing Lestes congener
Spotted Spreadwing
See Species Page
for more
Santa Lucia foothill ponds & marshes May–Oct (Nov)
Black Spreadwing Lestes stultus
Black Spreadwing
See Species Page for more
Ponds, slow streams & backwaters (Apr) June–July (Sep)
POND DAMSELS  Family Coenagrionidae
Sooty Dancer Argia lugens
Sooty Dancer
See Species Page
for more
Rocky streams (Apr) May–Sep (Oct)
California Dancer Argia agrioides
California Dancer
See Species Page
for more
Streams & open country (Apr) May–Sep (Nov)
Aztec Dancer Argia nahuana

See Species Page for more
Streams in arid country (Mar) Aug (Nov)
Vivid Dancer Argia vivida

See Species Page for more
Widespread wooded streams, ponds Mar–Oct
Emma's Dancer Argia emma

See Species Page
for more
Rocky streams (Mar) May–Sep
Desert Firetail Telebasis salva

See Species Page
for more
Marshes & backwaters, often with duckweed (Apr) May–Oct
Arroyo Bluet Enallagma praevarum

See Species Page for more
Willow-lined rivers & small streams (Mar) Apr–Oct
Familiar Bluet Enallagma civile

See Species Page for more
Widespread ponds, marshes, slow streams, open country (Mar) May–Nov
Tule Bluet Enallagma carunculatum

See Species Page
for more
Marshes & ponds (Feb) May–Oct (Nov)
Northern Bluet Enallagma annexum

See Species Page for more
Santa Lucia foothill streams Mar–Sep (Dec)
Exclamation Damsel Zoniagrion exclamationis Sunny glades with hemlock or brambles on riparian-edged creeks (Mar) May (Aug)
Western Forktail Ischnura perparva

See Species Page
for more
Widespread ponds, marshes, wet grassy edges, small streams
Mar–Oct (Nov)
Pacific Forktail Ischnura cervula

See Species Page
for more
Widespread ponds, marshes, slow streams (Jan) Mar–Dec
Black-fronted Forktail Ischnura denticollis 
Black-fronted Forktail
See Species Page
for more
Marshes & slow streams Mar–Oct (Nov)
San Francisco Forktail Ischnura gemina 
San Francisco Forktail
See Species Page
for more
Salinas River marshes near river mouth; apparently extirpated in MTY (Mar) Aug (Nov)
DRAGONFLIES  [Suborder Anisoptera]
COMMON NAME
SCIENTIFIC NAME
IDENTIFICATION & PHOTOS
HABITAT
DATES
DARNERS  Family Aeshnidae
Common Green Darner  Anax junius

See Species Page
for more
Widespread ponds, marshes, rivers, open country (Jan) May–Dec
Giant Darner Anax walsinghami

See Species Page
for more
Santa Lucia foothill rivers (Apr) June–Aug (Sep)
Blue-eyed Darner Rhionaeshna multicolor

See Species Page for more
Widespread ponds, marshes, rivers, open country (Mar) Apr–Dec
California Darner Rhionaeshna californica

See Species Page for more
Widespread rivers, marshes & ponds Mar–July (Aug)
Paddle-tailed Darner Aeshna palmata

See Species Page for more
Reedy coastal ponds near Elkhorn Slough (June) Oct–Nov
Walker's Darner Aeshna walkeri

See Species Page for more
Shaded streams in foothills July–Oct (Nov)
GOMPHIDS  Family Gomphidae
Grappletail Octogomphus specularis

See Species Page
for more
Santa Lucia foothill rocky streams (Apr) May–July (Aug)
Pacific Clubtail Gomphus kurilis

See Species Page
for more
Santa Lucia foothill streams & rivers Apr–May (Jul)
Bison Snaketail Ophiogomphus bison

See Species Page
for more
Foothill gravely rivers Apr–June (Oct)
White-belted Ringtail Erpetogomphus compositus

See Species Page
for more
Foothill rocky streams (Apr) Aug (Oct)
Gray Sanddragon Progomphus borealis

See Species Page for more
Sandy streams & rivers (Apr) June–July (Aug)
SPIKETAILS  Family Cordulegastridae
Pacific Spiketail Cordulegaster dorsalis Wooded creeks, shaded streams (May) June–Sep (Oct)
CRUISERS  Family Macromiidae
Western River Cruiser Macromia magnifica
Small rivers with riffles & ponds (Apr) May (Sep)
SKIMMERS & ALLIES  Family Libellulidae
Striped Meadowhawk Sympetrum pallipes

See Species Page
for more
Widespread marshes, ponds, open country (Apr) May–Nov
Red-veined Meadowhawk Sympetrum madidum

See Species Page
for more
Ponds & open country Apr (May-Sep)
Variegated Meadowhawk Sympetrum corruptum

See Species Page
for more
Widespread marshes, ponds, open country Jan–Nov (Dec)
Cardinal Meadowhawk Sympetrum ilotum

See Species Page
for more
Ponds, shaded streams, and marshes Feb–Nov
Western Pondhawk Erythemis collocata

See Species Page
for more
Marshes & ponds (Mar) Apr–Sep (Oct)
Blue Dasher Pachydiplax longipennis

See Species Page
for more
Marshes & ponds (Feb) May–Aug (Nov)
Common Whitetail Plathemis lydia

See Species Page for more
Widespread marshes, ponds, open country (Mar) Apr–Aug (Oct)
Twelve-spotted Skimmer Libellula pulchella

See Species Page for more
Ponds & slow streams (Apr) Sep (Oct)
Widow Skimmer Libellula luctuosa

See Species Page
for more
Widespread marshes, ponds, open country (Apr) May–Aug (Oct)
Flame Skimmer Libellula saturata

See Species Page
for more
Widespread marshes, ponds, rivers & streams (Jan) Apr–Oct (Dec)
Red Rock Skimmer Paltothemis lineatipes

See Species Page
for more
Foothill rocky streams (Mar) Apr–Sep (Nov)
Pale-faced Clubskimmer Brechmorhoga mendax

See Species Page
for more
Santa Lucia foothill rocky streams (Apr) Aug (Oct)
Black Saddlebags Tramea lacerata

See Species Page for more
Ponds, streams, open country (Apr) July–Oct
Red Saddlebags Tramea onusta

See Species Page
for more
Ponds, suburbs, open country irregular (Apr) June–Sep (Oct)
Spot-winged Glider Pantala hymenaea

See Species Page
for more
Widespread marshes, ponds, open country Mar–Aug (Oct)
Wandering Glider Pantala flavescens

See Species Page
for more
Widespread marshes, ponds, open country (Mar) May–Sep (Nov)

The species on this checklist have been accepted through the reviews provided at Odonata Central at the University of Texas, which hosts the official website of the Dragonfly Society of the Americas (for specimens & photo-documented records), and/or have been approved by Tim Manolis & Kathy Biggs for their mapping project on California distribution, hosted on Kathy Biggs's web pages.

Information on habitat primarily refers to Monterey County. Date spans given outside of parentheses are those documented within Monterey County, with months shown in parentheses indicating flight seasons established elsewhere in California, usually as cited by Manolis (2003). For example, American Rubyspot reads "(Feb) Apr–Oct (Nov)." This means that within Monterey County, the rubyspot has been recorded from April through October, but there are records as early as February and as late as November elsewhere in California. If there are no months in parentheses preceding or following the Monterey months listed, this means that known MTY flight dates encompass the usual California flight dates. [It should be noted, however, that early and late flight dates are being established every year, and some earlier or later dates not mentioned by Manolis (2003) have been overlooked.]

A note about the Species Pages linked to this Checklist: If the species has been photographed in MTY, every effort has been made to include one or more of those photos. Most of the photographs are mine, but I have borrowed shots from others where I did not have one, or where their photo added to the historic record. If a Species Page has photos, I sometimes include, for illustrative purposes, one or more of my own shots from elsewhere in California (these are all labeled and include the acronym for the county involved). However, if there are not yet any Monterey County photos of a particular species in Monterey, the Species Page will not include photos, even though there are plenty taken elsewhere in the State. In this way, the reader can be assured that they are viewing a collection of local MTY photos on these pages, rather than a mishmash collection on non-locals shots.

TAXONOMY & PHYLOGENY

There is a more-or-less widely accepted taxonomic order for North American odonata, such as used on the Odonata Central web site, which lists genera within suborders alphabetically, and species within genera alphabetically. This means that closely related species are sometimes listed far apart. A slightly modified version is used by Manolis (2003). I have further revised that arrangement based on new molecular evidence.

There is emerging evidence, based on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA studies, that Spreadwings [Lestidae] may not be damselflies [suborder Zygoptera] but may be closer the Anisozygoptera [two species of Epiophlebia in Japan and the eastern Himalayas] or even dragonflies [suborder Anisoptera]; see Saux et al. (2003), Hasegawa & Kasuya (2006). Only a few taxa have been analyzed so far, and more evidence will be necessary to make further adjustments to phylogenies. For the moment, Spreadwings are left in their traditional spot [e.g., Silsby 2001].

Mitochondrial DNA evidence can be useful at the genus and species level. Saux et al. (2003) used many common odes from California in their study, and their findings now give us a better picture of relationships. Based on their work, I have made the following adjustments to the arrangement in Manolis (2003):

  • placed the Desert Firetail Telebasis salva next to the Argia dancers, because the genetic evidence shows this relationship. Manolis (2003) and others had placed it after Ischnura forktails solely because the arrangement of genera among the Coenagrionidae pond damsels was alphabetical. By luck, however, the genetic evidence does place the Enallagma bluets between the Argia dancers and the Ischnura forktails.
  • followed a mitochondrial DNA study of Enallagma bluets (Turgeon et al. 2005) to sequence the few species of bluet in MTY

The order used by Manolis (2003) within the skimmer family — to wit, meadowhawks, pondhawks, dashers, skimmers, and then gliders, in that order — is supported by the mitochondrial DNA evidence.

Literature cited:
  • Hasegawa, E., and E. Kasuya. 2006. Phylogenetic analysis of the insect order Odonata using 28S and 16S rDNA sequences: a comparison between data sets with different evolutionary rates. Entomological Science 9: 55-66.
  • Manolis, T. 2003. Dragonflies and Damselflies of California. Univ. of Calif. Press, Berkeley.
  • Saux, C., C. Simon, and G.S. Spicer. 2003. Phylogeny of the dragonfly and damselfly Order Odonata as inferred by mitochondria 12S ribosomal RNA sequences. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 96: 693-699.
  • Silsby, J. 2001. Dragonflies of the World. Smithsonian Instit. Press, Washington, D.C.
  • Turgeon, J., R. Stoks, R.A. Thum, J.M. Brown, and M.A. McPeek. 2005. Simultaneous Quaternary radiations of three damselfly clades across the Holarctic. Amer. Naturalist 165: E78-E107 [electronically published]
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.

PHOTOS: All photos are © 2007 Don Roberson; or as attributed on Species Pages and used with permission; all rights reserved.

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Page created 29 Sep 2006-28 Mar 2007; revised 28 Nov 2007