Argia vivida
photo (above) Frog Pond 6 Jul 2006
photo (below) Laguna Grande 19 Jul 2006
Vivid Dancer is probably the most common and widespread ode in Monterey County. It can be abundant in any wooded or shady habitat with water nearby. A walk around the Frog Pond Reserve in Del Rey Oaks in July, for example, will produce hundreds, maybe thousands. The story is the same for many other local parks. And yet most folks walking the trails won't notice these inch-long colorful sprites.
Males are vividly patterned in rich blue (with a slightly violet tinge); most females are garbed in a dull tan to chalky white (below right). Both sexes, however, are identified in the field by the backwards pointing arrowheads on the middle abdomen segments, between the bands of black. Note also the broken side-stripe on the thorax, while a thick double-stripe lies atop the body.
photo (above L to R) 3 Sep 2006 Frog Pond & 30 Jul 2006 w. Pinnacles NM
photo (below) 19 Jul 2006 Laguna Grande
Female Vivid Dancers come in two types: the pale gynomorphic form (above) and the blue-and-black andromorphic form that mimics the male pattern (below; note ovipositor)
photo (above) 3 Sep 2006 Soberanes Creek
photo (below) 6 Jul 2006 Frog Pond Reserve, Del Rey Oaks
In either case, males have no trouble locating the female, grabbing her behind the neck (left; andromorphic female), and carrying her off for sex (below, with gynomorphic female — in wheel).
photo (above) 23 Sep 2006 Wagon Caves, The Indians
photo (below) 5 Jul 2006 Arroyo Seco River
Among the most engaging behaviors, though, is tandem ovipositing. The male takes the female to a spot of still water. Here he often balances above her, by grasping her mesostigmal plate (left), while she oviposits the eggs on vegetation below waterline. In a river with strong currents, such as the Arroyo Seco River where these pair were, the spot chosen is a very shallow backwater at the edge of the river, well out of the main current. It has been hypothesized that males of species that regularly tandem oviposit in running streams and rivers (like Vivid Dancer) have paraprocts better designed for the necessary strong grasp against any current.

From a human perspective, it can be very amusing and interesting to watch several pairs of a species ovipositing in the same spot at the same time. The males of the two pairs on the Carmel River (below) appear to be exchanging sports scores — while the female does all the hard work (but it even looks as if the ladies are finding time to gossip . . ).

Photo (above) 7 Oct 2006 Carmel River at Garland Ranch Regional Park
Of course all that sex will lead to babies. . . er, in this case, eggs and then nymphs (left). Much of the odonate life cycle occurs underwater. While adult damselflies live only a few days or weeks, the young survive the winter in the muck at the bottom of a stream or pond. The nymph shown is not a proven Vivid Dancer, but it does seem to be in the genus Argia (per Dennis Paulson), so Argia vivida is a good guess, given its abundance. The three flanges at the end of the abdomen are external gills used to breathe underwater by damselfly larvae.
Vivid Dancer is certainly widespread in MTY but it does require some shade. Habitats that are conducive include streams through Monterey Pine forests, oak woodlands, Redwood canyons, or willows, and mountainous habitats. There are at least 7 MTY specimens in 4 different collections, some dating back to 1940.
Vivid  Dancer is common and widespread. The map (right) shows some specific locales from which it is known — there are undoubtedly hundreds of other locations in the mountains or in woodlands anywhere. However, it appears to avoid open country with little shade. For example, there are as yet no records from the Salinas River in the Salinas Valley.
Dates of MTY records range from 15 March to 7 October. This is similar to elsewhere in California (Manolis 2003) although there are some Jan-Feb records from southern California.

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 11 Feb 2007