Argia lugens

Sooty Dancer is a large, long-legged dancer of rushing foothill creeks and rivers. Adult males are almost entirely covered with a sooty pruinescence that makes them look all-dark. They also lack the blue-patterned final abdominal segments so typical of other dancers. There is a pattern of buff-and-black underlying the sooty pruinescence but even the hints of the pattern can only be seen at close range (below).

photos (above & below) 21 Oct 2006 Arroyo Seco River

Sooty Dancer perches on rocks, driftwood, and branches that hang out of the gurgling stream, but rarely anywhere else. Males flit from rock to log — often not staying in any one place very long — and can be quite wary.

Photo (right) 5 Aug 2006 Arroyo Seco River
Photo (below) 9 Sep 2006 N fork, San Antonio River

Although Sooty Dancer is a distinctive species once learned, the beginner may confuse a pruinose female Pacific Forktail for this species. Sooty Dancer is decidedly larger (up to 2 inches long, rather than just an inch long), has longer legs, and has a very different habitat and behavior. Sooty Dancer is one of those that is obvious when you actually see it.
The male (above) may not yet be fully adult since we can see much better the complex pattern on the abdomen that will later become pruinose sooty. Very young males and all females (below) show a complex pattern of buff-and-black on the thorax.

Photo (below) 5 Aug 2006 Arroyo Seco River
In MTY, Sooty Dancer can be rather common and widespread in summer along the rushing foothill streams of the Santa Lucia Mountains. It was first collected at Hastings NHR in 1943, presumably along adjacent Finch Creek. There is also a specimen collected 50 years ago along the upper Big Sur River. More recently, the species has been found on various cites on the Arroyo Seco River and the upper reaches of the San Antonio River. Reports from the lowlands have yet to be confirmed.

The map shows the known locations for Sooty Dancer in MTY to date. All are along fast-running creeks and rivers in the Santa Lucia foothills. The species likely occurs throughout the Coast Range in the county on similar streams.

MTY flight dates so far span 20 May–9 Sep. Flight dates elsewhere in California range from April-October (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 28 Mar 2007, revised 21 May 2007