Aquatic Insects of Michigan

by Ethan Bright, Museum of Zoology Insect Division and School of Natural Resources and Environment
University of Michigan

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Coenagrionidae of Michigan - Identification

[under construction] Our largest family of damselflies in terms of species (32) and genera (7), coenagrionids are ubiquous in almost all aquatic systems in our state. Although not particularly strong flyers, adults of some species are often found quite some distance away from water bodies. Nymphs are more common in lentic systems, but may found among the macrophytes and other growth in quieter or backareas of streams and rivers; the stout-bodied Argia are adapted to lotic environments. Life cycles are generally univoltine, though further north some may require an additional year of development, whereas others (e.g., Ischnura, Enallagma) may even have multiple generations per year in the south.

Taxonomic References: Tennessen 2006, Walker 1953, Westfall and May 2006

Key to Adults

1a a. Tibial spurs twice the length of the intervening spaces, at least proximally 2
1b a. Tibial spurs at most barely longer than the intervening spaces 3


2a(1a) a. Vein M1A extending at least the length of 8 cells Argia
b. M2 arising near the 6th or 7th postnodal crossvein in the forewing, near the 5th or 6th crossvein in the hindwing
c. Wings petiolated only to level of the 1st antenodal crossvein
2b a. Vein M1A extending at most the length of 5 cells Nehalennia (in part)
b. M2 arising near the 5th postnodal crossvein in the forewing, near the 4th crossvein in the hindwing
c. Wings petiolated to level beyond the 1st antenodal crossvein
3a(1b) a. Intersternum with a prominent, moundlike tubercle bearing numerous long, stiff setae Amphiagrion saucium (Burmeister)
b. Wings long, nearly equal in length to the abdomen
c. Stocky, red to reddish brown and black
3b a. No prominent intersternal tubercle present 4
b. Wings shorter, at most 0.75x length to the abdomen
c. Usually not stocky, usually colored differently


4a(3b) a. Dorsum of thorax and abdomen mostly metallic green Nehalennia (in part)
b. Abdominal length 19-25mm
c. Prothoracic femora with 2 distinct external black stripes, 1 at base of spines
4b a. Dorsum of thorax and abdomen usually not metallic green 5
b. Abdominal length variable
c. Prothoracic femora without a black stripe, or with one black stripe that may cover the entire external surface
5a(3b) a. Postocular area dark, without pale spots, although crest crest of occiput may be pale Chromagrion conditum (Hagen, in Selys)
5b a. Postocular area entirely pale or with pale spots ranging from narrow linear areas to large round spots, sometimes confluent with each other or with pale crest of occiput 6
6a(5b) a. Vein M2 arising proximal to or near the 4th postnodal crossvein in fore wing, and proximal to or near 3rd postnodal in hind wing 7
6b a. Vein M2 arising near 5th postnodal crossvein or beyond in fore wing, near 4th or beyond in hind wing 8
7a(6a) a. Black humeral stripe divided along its entire length by a narrow, pale stripe Enallagma (in part)
b. Prothorax with a pale dorsomedial spot
7b a. Black humeral stripe entire along its length or lacking Ischnura (in part)
b. Prothorax without a pale, dorsomedial spot or entirely pale
8a(6b) a. Anal crossing links Cu to the posterior border in the fore and hind wings Enallagma (in part)
8b a. Anal crossing links Cu to A in fore and usually the hind wings, and does not reach the posterior border 9
9a(8b) a. Ab2-3 sterna modified with secondary genitalia, markedly different in shape from remaining segments Males, 10
b. End of abdomen without ovipositor, relatively undifferentiated
9b a. Ab2-3 unmodified and not markedly different from other abdominal segments Females, 12
b. Prominent ovipositor under the last abdominal segment
10a(9a) a. Pterostigma of fore wing different in shape, color, or size from pterostigma of hind wing Ischnura
b. Ab10 with a posterodorsally projecting bifid process at least one-half as long as the segment
10b a. Pterostigma of fore and hind wings similar in color, shape, and size 11
b. Ab10 with at most a very low, widely bifid prominence one-fourth as long as the segment
11a(10b) a. Paraprocts distinctly bifid in lateral view, with a broader inferior lobe and a more slender superior lobe or spine Coenagrion
b. Cerci with well-developed ventromedial lobes that either extend anteroventrally or posteroventrally, in the latter case extending well beyond the distal end of the dorsolateral lobe and broadly expanded apically
11b a. Paraprocts not bifid in lateral view, usually subtriangular with posterodorsally directed apex, at most with an obtuse, posteroventral angulation Enallagma (in part)
b. Cerci without such lobes, if with ventral or posteroventral lobes, these extend little, if any, beyond the dorsal lobes and are not expanded apically
12a(9b) a. Humeral suture usually pale, but, if a black stripe present, then no apical spine on venter of Ab8 Ischnura
12b a. Humeral suture usually with a black stripe, but, if pale, then an apical spine is present on venter of Ab8 12
13a(12b) a. Ab8 without a ventroapical spine Coenagrion
13b a. Ab8 with a ventroapical spine Enallagma (in part)

Key to Mature Nymphs

1a a. Body shape usually short and stout Argia
b. Premental setae absent
c. Palpal lobes ending in two distal, pointed hooks
d. Palpal setae 0-3
also: Principally lotic
1b a. Body shape usually longer and more slender 2
b. Premental setae present
c. Palpal lobes ending in one distal, pointed hook and a truncate, denticulate lobe
d. Palpal setae 3 or more
2a(1b) a. Posterolateral margins of head sharply angulate 3
2b a. Posterolateral margins of head broadly rounded 4
3a(2a) a. Apices of gills with the acute tip long and sharply pointed Chromagrion conditum (Hagen)
b. Gills narrower, their maximum width about 1/6x that of gill length, their margins with widely separated setae
c. Antennae 7-segmented
3b a. Apices of gills with the acute tip not long or sharply pointed Amphiagrion saucium (Burmeister)
b. Gills wider, their maximum width about 1/3x that of gill length, their margins with thickly and closely spaced setae
c. Antennae with 5-6 segments
4a(2b) a. One premental setae of normal length present, although 1-3 small setae may be present on its medial side 5
4b a. At least two setae of normal length present 6
5a(4a) a. Palpal setae 3-4 Enallagma (in part)
b. Numerous, long, stiff setae on the lateral carinae of all abdominal segments beyond Ab1
c. Total length (not including gills) usually 17mm or more
5b a. Palpal setae 5-6 Nehalennia
b. No long, stiff setae present on the lateral carinae of anterior abdominal segments, although often present on posterior segments
c. Total length 15mm or less
6a(4b) a. Lateral carinae of Ab2-8, in dorsal view, slightly concave, with their apexes prominent and bearing two or more stout, curved setae Enallagma (in part)
b. Usually 3 premental setae present
c. Eyes with a dark pattern of spots, or lines forming hexagonal-shaped cells
6b a. Leteral carinae of Ab2-8 with margins straight or only slightly convex, apexes not prominent, and with apical setae, if present, not noticeably larger than the preceding setae 7
b. 2-5 premental setae present
c. Eyes, if patterned, usually not as above
7a(6b) a. Eyes usually with a pattern of lateral, alternating pale and dark bands Ischnura
b. Antennae usually with 7 distinct segments
c. Lateral carinae of Ab2-7 with numerous small setae not arranged in a single row
7b a. Eyes with no such pattern of lateral pale and dark bands, although dark spots may be apparent Coenagrion and Enallagma (in part)
b. Antennae 6 or 7-segmented, last (apical) segment sometimes with a diffuse, unclear suture that may be ringed with thin setae making it appear separated
c. Lateral carinae of Ab2-8 usually with a single row of setae of variable stoutness


    Paulson D. 2011. Dragonflies and damselflies of the East. Princeton Field Guides. Princeton University Press, Pinceton, New Jersey, USA. 538 p.
    Tennessen KJ. 2006. Odonata, pp. 237-294, in An Introduction to the Aquatic Insects of North America, 4th Ed. Merritt RW, Cummins KW, Berg MB. (eds.). Kendell/ Hunt Publishing Company: Dubuque, Iowa, USA.
    Walker EM. 1953. The Odonata of Canada and Alaska, Vol. 1. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, Ontario. 292 pp.
    Westfall MJ, May ML. 2006. Damselflies of North America, Revised Edition. Scientific Publishers, Gainesville, Florida, USA. xii + 502 pp.

Page last edited: May 22, 2020 (EB)