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Calopteryx dimidiata

What do they look like?

Like all damselflies, sparkling jewelwings have a body consisting of a head, thorax, and abdomen. On its head is a pair of large eyes and a pair of antennae. The thorax has three pairs of legs covered in hairs and two pairs of wings. The abdomen is round, long, and skinny, and is made up of ten segments. Sparkling jewelwings are colorful and have large wings. Their total body length is between 37 and 50 mm. Wings are between 23 and 31 mm long. Males have dark brown eyes and metallic green bodies. The underside of the male abdomen is black. Males have black bands ending in straight edges on the tips of all wings. These bands are smaller in populations farther north. Females have coloration similar to males but may be metallic bronze-green. Females have wings that either lack the black bands, look the same as males' wings, or only have the black bands on the hind wings. When immature, their bodies are duller in color and their eyes appear redder.

Larvae have wide heads with eyes on the sides. The antennae are much more noticeable in larvae than in adults. The abdomen is cylindrical and skinny, and grows smaller at the back end. Extending from the rear of the abdomen are three gills that allow the larva to breathe under water. The lower lip is large and can shoot out to catch prey. Older larvae have wing pads, where the wings will grow from when they become adults. (Johnson, 1973; Paulson, 2011; Westfall, Jr. and May, 1996)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • Range length
    37 to 50 mm
    1.46 to 1.97 in

Where do they live?

Calopteryx dimidiata, the sparkling jewelwing damselfly, is found along the eastern coastal plains of the United States, extending westward towards eastern Texas. It has been reported in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. (Johnson, 1973; Paulson, 2011)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Sparkling jewelwings are found along forest streams and rivers with moderate to swift currents. Their habitat tends to have a sandy soil and plenty of aquatic vegetation. The larvae live in the water, and adults of both sexes are usually found on land near the streams that they emerged from, although they may also be found in more open areas. (Johnson, 1973; Paulson, 2011; Smock, 1988; Westfall, Jr. and May, 1996)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • rivers and streams

How do they grow?

Sparkling jewelwings undergo incomplete metamorphosis. They have the life stages of egg, larvae (also called a nymph or naiad), and adult. After the eggs are laid underwater, they hatch in 2 to 4 weeks. The larvae are aquatic, with different stages called instars, and between each instar they shed their skin. During their last instar, they climb out of the water and shed their skin one final time to become adults. Some sparkling jewelwing larvae will not become adults before winter, and will spend winter hibernating as a larvae, before hatching in the spring. Other larvae develop in time and become adults before winter. Adults that have just emerged from the water are called tenerals, and are pale in color, with soft skin. Tenerals are not yet able to mate. After about two weeks, the exoskeleton hardens and they become colorful, and are full adults, able to mate. The time of the year that adults are seen flying around depends on location, but can vary anywhere from early spring to fall. (Corbert, 1999; Córdoba-Aguilar and Cordero-Rivera, 2005; Johnson, 1973; Paulson, 2011; Smock, 1988; Westfall, Jr. and May, 1996)

How do they reproduce?

In order to mate, a male will perform behaviors that will attract the female's attention and convince her to mate with him. After a female signals that she is willing to mate, the male grasps the female behind the head with the end of his abdomen. The female then bends her abdomen forward to make contact with the male's genitals near the front of the male's abdomen, forming a position that is called the “copulation wheel.” Mating lasts for two minutes on average. Sometimes males will have to remove another male's sperm from within the female from her previous matings. Sparkling jewelwing females may mate with multiple males prior to laying eggs. Males of related damselflies have been reported to mate with multiple females, although the males cannot tell if they have already mated with the same female before or not. (Córdoba-Aguilar and Cordero-Rivera, 2005; Córdoba-Aguilar, et al., 2003; Paulson, 2011; Tsubaki, et al., 2006)

After mating, males fly with the females to a place where they can lay their eggs. Females generally lay eggs within the male's territory. Sparkling jewelwing females lay their eggs while underwater. The female walks into the water along submerged leaves until she is completely underwater and then lays her eggs into the leaves. Clutches usually consist of several hundred eggs. The female can remain underwater for about 15 to 20 minutes. This is due to a thin sheet of air that is trapped against the body of the damselfly. Oxygen from the water can move into this bubble, allowing the female to breathe under water long enough to lay her clutch of eggs. After rising to the surface she remains near the water and is unwilling to mate for a short while. Meanwhile, the male remains on guard at the surface of the water to defend his female from being bothered by other males while the she lays her eggs. (Córdoba-Aguilar and Cordero-Rivera, 2005; Córdoba-Aguilar, et al., 2003; Paulson, 2011; Tsubaki, et al., 2006)

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    Calopteryx dimidiata mates multiple times throughout its life.
  • Breeding season
    Mating takes place from February to November, depending on region.
  • Average eggs per season
    several hundred

Sparkling jewelwings provide nutrients in the eggs for the offspring to grow and develop. They also lay the eggs underwater so that the larvae will be able to survive after hatching. Otherwise, there is no more parental care. (Paulson, 2011)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female

How long do they live?

While there is no information on the specific lifespan of sparkling jewelwings, related damselflies live for about a month after reaching adulthood. Sparkling jewelwings likely live for a similar amount of time. (Córdoba-Aguilar and Cordero-Rivera, 2005)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 months

How do they behave?

Sparkling jewelwings are diurnal and remain active until dusk. Generally, damselflies spend the night in bushes and other plants. In Calopteryx damselflies, young males tend to spend more time foraging for prey from streams, where it is lighter and there is more prey available. Mature males are territorial and will fight with other males to defend their territory. They almost never leave the stream. As the mating season continues and more males become able to mate, competition between males increases. Males that enter another male's territory will either be chased away, or will win the fight and chase the original male away. Sparkling jewelwing males defend small territories that are chosen based on locations where females can lay their eggs. When males fight for territories, they fly in spirals around each other over the water and may give chase for up to 40 feet along the stream, frequently making physical contact with one another. (Córdoba-Aguilar and Cordero-Rivera, 2005; Kirkton and Schultz, 2001; Paulson, 2011)

Home Range

Since males defend their territory, they stay in the same area, rarely leaving their section of stream to protect it from other males. Females travel farther than males do, though both sexes tend to remain near the body of water where they lived as larvae. (Córdoba-Aguilar and Cordero-Rivera, 2005; Kirkton and Schultz, 2001; Paulson, 2011)

How do they communicate with each other?

Unlike many other insect groups, damselflies do not use their antennae to detect smells and chemicals. They instead primarily rely on sight to identify prey, mates, territory rivals, and predators. Sparkling jewelwings are able to see through the water to find places to lay their eggs, based on the color of underwater plants. Their large eyes are spaced far apart, giving them good depth perception. They also have structures called ocelli which detect differences in the amount of light.

Sparkling jewelwing males communicate visually with potential female mates. Males attract the attention of females by performing certain courtship behaviors. They float on the surface on the water with their abdomens curled above the water and their wings partly spread. The current carries them downstream, so they repeatedly fly back up stream to where the female is to perform this courtship behavior until the female leaves or decides to mate. Females let the males know when they are willing to mate by flipping their wings. (Corbert, 1999; Córdoba-Aguilar and Cordero-Rivera, 2005; Paulson, 2011)

What do they eat?

All larval and adult damselflies are predators, and feed on insects. Teneral damselflies generally feed on small prey such as midges (Chironomidae) and mosquitoes (Culicidae). (Córdoba-Aguilar and Cordero-Rivera, 2005)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

There is no information available about the specific predators of sparkling jewelwings. However, predators of damselflies are generally larger damselfly species, dragonflies, spiders, robber flies, birds, fish, frogs, and water beetles. (Paulson, 2011)

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Both adults and larvae of Calopteryx dimidiata are predators of insects. They are also prey to many other organisms, including birds, fish, and other damselflies and dragonflies. Protozoan parasites called gregarines are known to infect many Calopteryx species, and Calopteryx dimidiata likely can be infected as well. (Córdoba-Aguilar and Cordero-Rivera, 2005; Paulson, 2011)

Commensal or parasitic species (or larger taxonomic groups) that use this species as a host
  • gregarines, Apicomplexa

Do they cause problems?

There are no known negative effects of sparkling jewelwings on humans.

How do they interact with us?

There are no known positive effects of Calopteryx dimidiata on humans.

Are they endangered?

The sparkling jewelwing damselfly is not an endangered species.


Meaghan Ly (author), The College of New Jersey, Keith Pecor (editor), The College of New Jersey, Angela Miner (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.


Corbert, P. 1999. Dragonflies: Behavior and Ecology of Odonata. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Córdoba-Aguilar, A., A. Cordero-Rivera. 2005. Evolution and ecology of Calopterygidae (Zygoptera: Odonata): status of knowledge and research perspectives. Neotropical Entomology, 34: 861-879.

Córdoba-Aguilar, A., E. Uhía, A. Cordero-Rivera. 2003. Sperm competition in Odonata (Insecta): the evolution of female sperm storage and rival’s sperm displacement. The Journal of Zoology, 261: 381-398.

Johnson, C. 1973. Variability, distribution, and taxonomy of Calopteryx dimidiata. The Florida Entomologist, 56: 207-222.

Kirkton, S., T. Schultz. 2001. Age-specific behavior and habitat selection of adult male damselflies, Calopteryx maculata (Odonata: Calopterygidae). Journal of Insect Behavior, 14: 545-556.

Paulson, D. 2011. Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Smock, L. 1988. Life histories, abundance and distribution of some macroinvertebrates from a South Carolina, USA coastal plain stream. Hydrobiologia, 157: 193-208.

Tsubaki, Y., C. Kato, S. Shintani. 2006. On the respiratory mechanism during underwater oviposition in a damselfly Calopteryx cornelia Selys. Journal of Insect Physiology, 52: 499-505.

Waage, J. 1988. Reproductive behavior of the damselfly Calopteryx dimidiata (Zygoptera: Calopterygidae). Odonatologica, 17: 365-378.

Westfall, Jr., M., M. May. 1996. Damselflies of North America. Gainesville, FL: Scientific Publishers, Inc..

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Ly, M. 2014. "Calopteryx dimidiata" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed May 26, 2016 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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