InstructionsUse the keyGroupsfamAnatomy
Phylum Arthropoda
Class Insecta
Order Odonata
Suborder Zygoptera
Family Coenagrionidae
Common Name Narrow-winged Damselflies
or Pond Damsels
Distinguishing Characteristics
  • Short basal antennal segment (1)
  • Segments of antennae are approximately the same length (2)
  • Palpal lobe lacks setae (2)
  • Prementum lacks cleft and protrudes slightly (2)
  • Leaf-like caudal lamellae (2)
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     Coenagrionidae are common throughout North America and are found primarily in lentic habitats (1, 2). A few species within the family are found along the banks or in riffles of streams (1). Vegetative debris in permanent ponds, swamps, marshes, and littoral lakes are ideal habitats for larvae of lentic species (1).

Feeding Behavior
     Categorized as ambush and engulfing predators, Coenagrionidae use the vegetation as camouflage to stalk their prey, consuming primarily small invertebrates (1). The majority of Coenagrionidae species are climbers; organisms that use branches, stems, or rocks to perch on and look for prey (2). The feeding behavior of most Odonates follow a similar pattern; 1) locate prey and adjust body to face it, 2) project labium and grasp the prey then retracting labium back to mouth, and 3) use mandibles to consume its prey (2).

Life History
     Most Coenagrionidae are univoltine with a few species being bivoltine. Adult flying periods range from spring to autumn, during which, females deposit the eggs in vegetation (1). Some species produce eggs that are able to over-winter. These species usually deposit eggs in autumn and the larvae emerge in the spring (1).

     Members of the Coenagrionidae family have territorial and defensive behaviors (3). Larvae in their 6-8th (middle) and 12-14th (late) instars of the species Xanthocnemis zealandica were observed in New Zealand. Twenty-five different body movements were recorded and were associated with predation threat, intraspecific competition, and territorial behavior (3). Four common movements were the standing posture, abdomen raise, lamellae forward, and static caudal swinging (SCS) (3).

     Coenagrionidae are characterized as being associated with natural water conditions instead of pollutant tolerant (4). This suggests that bodies of water where Coenagrionidae are found are less likely influenced by human impact or outside disturbances.
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(1) Thorp, J.H. and A.P. Covich. 2010. Ecology and Classification of North American Freshwater Invertebrates, pp. 587-657. Elsevier Inc. Boston.

(2) Cummings, K.W. and R.W. Merritt. 1996. An Introduction to the Aquatic Insects of North America. Kendall and Hunt Publishing Company. Boston.

(3) Rowe, R.J. 1985. Intraspecific interactions of New Zealand damselfly larvae I. Xanthocnemis zealandica, Ischnura aurora, and Austrolestes colensonis (Zygoptera: Coenagrionidae: Lestidae). New Zealand Journal of Zoology 12:1-15.

(4) Patrick, R. and D.M. Palavage. 1994. The value of species as indicators of water quality. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 145:55-92.