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Painted Damsel

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Hesperagrion heterodoxum

Selys, 1868

Order Odonata
Suborder Zygoptera
Superfamily Coenagrionoidea
Family Coenagrionidae
Genus Hesperagrion
Species heterodoxum (Selys, 1868) [Agrion]


The head of the male is mostly black, except for 2 large bright red postocular spots. The thorax is largely black with a blue antehumeral stripe that is reduced to distinctive anterior and posterior elongated spots. The rest of the thorax is blue fading below. The abdomen is largely black dorsally and blue-green laterally. The apex of segment 7 and the majority of segments 8-10 are bright orange in the male. In females the apical 3/4 of segment 7 is bright blue. Teneral individuals of both sexes are orange. Young individuals go through a number of intermediate color stages that may occur at different rates on the head, thorax and abdomen. The male cerci are forked. The mesostigmal plates of the female are triangular with a strong posterolateral flange and a distinct small knob bearing a setal tuft on each posteromedial corner.


Total length: 28-35 mm; abdomen: 21-27 mm; hindwing: 16-21 mm.

Similar Species

Pacific (I. cervula ) and Plains (I. damula ) Forktails both have black thoraxes with a pale antehumeral stripe reduced to anterior and posterior spots. These spots are smaller than in Painted Damsel, however, and neither of these species has bright red postocular spots. Teneral females are orange, not red like firetails (Telebasis), and the dorsum of the thorax is pale in Painted Damsel. Females are also unique in having abdominal segment 7 pale.


Permanent and ephemeral creeks and streams with moderate emergent vegetation.


Painted Damsel is found commonly in the most western limits of the region. It often openly perches on emergent vegetation in rather large numbers. It has been reported as an inhabitant of permanent streams, but I have observed it in ephemeral streams of the Davis Mountains in West Texas. Despite its beauty, we don't know much about the behavior or egg laying strategies of this species.


Southwestern U.S. and Mexico.