A pair of Western Red Damsels (Amphiagrion abbreviatum)

Western Red Damsels (Amphiagrion abbreviatum)

A pair of Western Red Damsels (Amphiagrion abbreviatum)
A pair of Western Red Damsels (Amphiagrion abbreviatum) preparing for egg-laying, Longmont, Colorado, USA. July 28, 2012.

On Saturday I attended a dragonfly program hosted by the City of Longmont open spaces department, led by local odonata enthusiast Bill Prather. It was a great mix of people–everyone from some of the other area odonata nerds, who I’m slowly starting to know, to families with kids. The kids were particularly delightful–these kids clearly loved being outdoors and were pros at catching insects and toads. It made me miss outdoor education a little, and I’m thinking about seeing if some of the area open space departments might be interested in a sweep netting program next year (that was my favorite thing to do when I worked at an insect zoo).

Anyway, I don’t go to these programs to take photos, really. When you have 15-20 people, some kids, photo opportunities are pretty limited, although I still try. I go to learn and hopefully see a new species–and this weekend the highlight was the Western Red Damsel (Amphiagrion abbreviatum), a gorgeous little damselfly that was all over the place. The St. Vrain Greenway trailhead area is reclaimed gravel mines, with a lot of seep areas which perhaps attracted some different species from the ponds I usually frequent.

Another photo of the same pair, this time actually in the process of mating. Prior to mating, the male curves his abdomen around to place sperm packets on the upper underside, where the female’s tail is touching in the picture. During mating, the male grasps the female behind the head with his claspers, and she curves her abdomen around to reach the sperm packets, creating the “wheel” or heart shape. But it’s not very romantic: especially in larger species of dragonflies, the male can actually scar the female’s eyes, and it’s not uncommon for female odonates to spend a lot of time avoiding randy males, perhaps due to stress (which reduces fitness).

Western Red Damsels (Amphiagrion abbreviatum) in copula

Other species for the day, insofar as I can remember:

Vivid Dancer (Argia vivida)
Paiute Dancer (Argia alberta)
Western Forktail (Ischnura perparva, another new species for me)
Western Red Damsel (Amphiagrion abbreviatum)

Band-winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum)
Variegated Meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum)
Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)
Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata)
Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella)
Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)
Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens)
Western Pondhawk (Erythemis collocata)

I also saw another Two-spotted Melyrid (Collops bipunctatus)–now that I recognize them, I’m seeing them all over the place–and a nifty little beefly I’m going to need help identifying.

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