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THE OUTDOORS DIGEST | FIELD GUIDE

Vivid dancer

June 28, 2005

ARGIA VIVIDA

During the summer, nearly every pond, seep and rivulet hosts a wealth of dragonflies and damselflies. Dancers are one particularly beautiful and active group of damselflies, and the vivid dancer is the most colorful of all. This species is found in every county in California and is extremely abundant in valleys and foothills. The intensely blue males patrol shaded stream banks, flying after insect prey and following patches of sun to stay warm. From prominent perches they dart out to grab passing females, locking onto them with specialized genitalia that fit puzzle-perfect with only the females of their own species. This is important because damselflies fly so fast, and competition for mates is so intense, that males don't have time to wait and see if a female is the correct species -- the rule seems to be "grab first and decide later if it's the right species."

NATURAL HISTORY

Reproduction is the primary activity of an adult damselfly. Mated pairs are frequently seen flying about in tandem, with the male guarding the female as she lays eggs in decaying wood and pond vegetation.

KEY CHARACTERISTICS

Not more than 1 1/2 inches long, violet blue or tan, with wings folded up over the back.

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