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Citrine Forktail

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Ischnura hastata

Say, 1839

Order Odonata
Suborder Zygoptera
Superfamily Coenagrionoidea
Family Coenagrionidae
Genus Ischnura
Species hastata (Say, 1839) [Agrion]


Males of this species are distinct because of a unique pterostigma, that is detached from the costa in the forewing. It is lighter in color and twice or more the size of its hindwing counterpart. No other damselfly in the world has this characteristic. The thorax of males is green and the abdomen is bright yellow. The dorsoapical projection on segment 10 is strongly notched and prominent. The cerci project posteriorly and are rounded distally with a ventrally directed medial projection off each. The paraprocts each have a short, rounded posteroventral lobe. Females are red-orange with black stripes across top of the head, middorsally on pterothorax and dorsally on abdominal segments 6-8. In older individuals a light pruinosity envelops the thorax and abdomen, but never completely obscures the pterothoracic pattern. Only gynomorhpic forms are known in this species. A small vulvar spine may or may n ot be present on segment 8.


Total length: 21-27 mm; abdomen: 16-22 mm; hindwing: 9-15 mm.

Similar Species

The female Citrine and Fragile Forktails (I. posita ) are similar, but Fragile Forktails are generally darker and even in pruninose females the distinctive exclamation-like antehumeral stripe is visible with the help of a little magnification. Fragile Forktail females always lack a vulvar spine on segment 8.


Heavily vegetated ponds and lakes and other permanent or temporary bodies of water.


Citrine Forktail is the smallest damselfly in North America and as the above wide distribution suggests it is a cosmopolitan species with the ability to readily adapt to its environment. Citrine Forktail is found throughout the New World, but remarkably little has been written about its reproductive behavior or ecology. It is not unusual to find individuals far from water. They may be abundant in heavily vegetated areas with little or no water. Whether because of its small size or secretive behavior, Citrine Forktail is seldom seen mating. Average mating time is 20 minutes and fe males lay eggs unaccompanied by a male in submerged vegetation just under the surface.


Florida to southern Ontario west to Colorado and California south through Mexico to Central and South America.