Checklist of the Odonata of California

Note: This list was originally put up in 1996 and was created using resources available at the time. With the expanding public interest in odonates, there has been a lot of new work on California's fauna, so this list and the comments contained in it are mainly of an archival nature. For the latest information, visit Kathy Biggs's web site - www.sonic.net/dragonfly/ . Kathy has spent a considerable amount of time and effort expanding, updating and keeping current the information presented below. She has also written a guide to the common species of California and maintains a sightings list for California.

The species indicated below have been found in California according to the location records in the various sources. Some of the sources are quite old; the most recent complete source I know of is the list of Paulson and Garrison (1977) (now superceded - see Kathy Biggs's web site). It is always possible that some species are present which are not indicated in the available location records or collections.

The following references were used to determine the entries in this checklist:

  1. Damselflies of North America by Westfall, M.J. and May, M.L. (c 1996)
  2. Revision of the Genus Enallagma... by Rosser Garrison (c 1984)
  3. Pan-Pacific Entomologist, vol 53, pg 147-160, 1977
          A list and new distributional records of Pacific coast odonata. by Paulson, D.R. and Garrison, R.W.
  4. A Manual of the Dragonflies of North America (Anisoptera) by Needham and Westfall (c 1954, no damselflies)
  5. Insects of Western North America by E. O. Essig (c 1926)
The Zygopteran species (damselflies) come mainly from Westfall while the Anisopteran species (dragonflies) come mainly from Paulson and Garrison.

Common names come from the listing published by the Dragonfly Society of the Americas in Argia vol 8, no. 2, 1 Aug 1996. Other common names and picture references from the best widely available insect field guide and California specific guides are from:

I have also used the SIO publication The Dragonflies of the World: A systematic list of the extant species of Odonata Vol. 1 Zygoptera, Anisozygoptera by D. Allen, L.Davies and P Tobin (c 1984) to check the species names of the damselflies. In general, I have used their ``accepted'' names, and indicated if they regard the name published in the reference as a synonym.

Where comments follow an entry, the references are designated by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ASG, CI, LAB and SIO. (Where the CI and LAB common names are the same, the CI references have been omitted.) Where the location record in Essig indicates only that the species is common in the western United States, I have placed a ``?'' in the comments field. An ``*'' follows the genus name for several species to indicate that the accepted genus (the one shown) has been changed from that in Needham and Westfall (indicated in the comments).``nl'' following the reference indicates that the species is not listed; ``note'' indicates that comments are present in the reference explaining why the species should be deleted from the California checklist based on the available evidence.

Special thanks to:
Al Jaramillo for the Pan-Pacific Entomologist reference, and for providing a list of additions (based on this reference) and corrections/clarifications. In addition, Al pointed me to an early list of common names for North American dragonflies proposed by Dennis Paulson and Sid Dunkle. The current list of common names has been adopted by the Dragonfly Society of the Americas.
Dennis Paulson for finding running his species spell checker on the list, helpful comments and clarifications.

Kathy Biggs for all the work she has done in helping to promote California's Odonata.

Disclaimer: Any errors, omissions, etc. are mine alone.

Revision History
May 14, 2003 - changed comments above to reflect archival nature of the information contained on this page and fixed broken links
Sept 02, 1998 - added link to Kathy Biggs updated dragonfly information
Jan 2, 1997 - included common names supplied by Kathy Biggs
Jan 2, 1997 - included corrections and clarifications sent to me by Dennis Paulson (of Paulson and Garrison)
Sep 20, 1996 - included results of Westfall and May and those from Paulson and Garrison
Sep 4, 1996 - Al's corrections/clarifications, link for common names
May 17, 1996 - revised, added Zygoptera, references
May 8, 1996 - added


Zygoptera (damselflies - about 40 species)

(references 1, 3 and 5 apply unless otherwise noted)

Family Calopterygidae Broad-winged Damsels (Essig calls Family Agrionidae)
    Calopteryx aequabilis    River Jewelwing
           (1: californica is a synonym 5: uses ssp. californica)
    Hetaerina americana    American Rubyspot
           (ASG: Ruby Spot plate 359 LAB: Common Ruby Spot, Fig 26,27)

Family Lestidae Spreadwings
    Archilestes californica    California Spreadwing
           (CI: California Spread-wing pg 47 LAB: California Archilestes, Fig 28,29)
    A. grandis    Great Spreadwing
    Lestes congener     Spotted Spreadwing (5: ?, ASG: Dark Lestes plate 378
    L. disjunctus disjunctus    Common Spreadwing (3 and 5: use L. disjunctus 5: ?)
    L. dryas    Emerald Spreadwing (SIO: synonym uncatus (5), ASG: Stocky Lestes plate 350)
    L. stultus    Black Spreadwing
    L. unguiculatus    Lyre-tipped Spreadwing (5: ?)

Family Coenagrionidae Pond Damsels (5: Stalk-winged Damselflies, ASG: Narrow-winged Damselflies)
    Amphiagrion abbreviatum     Western Red Damsel (5: nl)
    Argia agrioides     California Dancer
    A. alberta    Paiute Dancer (5: nl)
    A. emma    Emma's Dancer
    A. hinei    Lavender Dancer (5: nl)
    A. immunda    Kiowa Dancer (3: nl (Nov 96 - D. Paulson thinks unlikely) 5: nl)
    A. lugens    Sooty Dancer (SIO: synonym Hyponeura lugens (5))
    A. moesta    Powdered Dancer (5: nl)
    A. nahuana    Aztec Dancer (5: nl)
    A. sedula    Blue-ringed Dancer (5: nl)
    A. vivida    Vivid Dancer (5: ? LAB: Violet Dancer, Fig 30,31 ASG: uses Violet Dancer for another species)
    Coenagrion resolutum    Taiga Bluet
    Enallagma anna (2: yes 5: ?)
    E. basidens    Double-striped Bluet (2: yes, Arizona border, 5: nl)
    E. boreale    Boreal Bluet
           (1: recognizes as a species 2: yes SIO lists as a boreale as synonym for deserti, synonym calverti (5: ?))
    E. carunculatum    Tule Bluet (2: yes)
    E. civile    Familiar Bluet (2: yes)
    E. clausum    Alkali Bluet (2: yes 5: nl)
    E. cyathigerum    Northern Bluet
           (2: yes 5: ?, SIO list robustum as a synonym, Essig lists both ASG: Circumpolar Bluet plate 354)
    E. praevarum    Arroyo Bluet (2: yes)
    Ischnura barberi    Desert Forktail (5: nl)
    I. cervula    Pacific Forktail
    I. denticollis    Black-fronted Forktail
    I. erratica    Swift Forktail
    I. gemina    San Francisco Forktail (SIO: subg Celaeneura - Celaenura gemina used by Essig)
    I. hastata    Citrine Forktail
           (1: Anomalagrion, is a subg 3: uses Anomalagrion hastatum 5: nl)
    I. perparva    Western Forktail (5: ?)
    Nehalennia irene     Sedge Sprite (5: nl)
    Telebasis salva     Desert Firetail
    Zoniagrion exclamationis    Sierra Damsel


Anisoptera (dragonflies - about 60 species)

(3 and 4 apply unless otherwise noted)

Family Petaluridae Petaltails
    Tanypteryx hageni    Black Petaltail

Family Corulegasteridae Spiketails (ASG: Biddies and Flying Adders)
    Cordulegaster dorsalis    Pacific Spiketail
           (ASG: Western Flying Adder plate 368 CI: Yellow-backed Biddie pg 51)

Family Gomphidae Clubtails
    Erpetogomphus compositus    White-belted Ringtail
    E. lampropeltis    Serpent Ringtail
    Gomphus kurilis    Pacific Clubtail (4: also lists the synonym Gomphus confraternus)
    Octogomphus specularis    Grappletail (ASG: Small Western Gomphid plate 367)
    Ophiogomphus bison    Bison Snaketail (ASG: Western Mountain Gomphid plate 344)
    O. morrisoni    Great Basin Snaketail (4: also lists the synonym O. nevadensis)
    O. occidentis    Sinuous Snaketail
    O. severus    Pale Snaketail
    Progomphus borealis    Gray Snaddragon
    Stylurus* intricatus    Brimstone Clubtail (4: Genus Gomphus)
    S.* olivaceus    Olivaceous Clubtail (4: Genus Gomphus)
    S.* plagiatus    Russet-tipped Clubtail (4: nl Genus Gomphus)

Family Aeshnidae Darners
    Aeshna californica    California Darner
    A. interrupta    Variable Darner (4: uses A. nevadensis, a variety of interrupta)
    A. multicolor    Blue-eyed Darner (CI: Common Blue Darner pg 51 LAB: Multicolored Darner Fig 19, 20)
    A. palmata    Paddle-tailed Darner
    A. umbrosa    Shadow Darner (4: uses A. occidentalis, a variety of umbrosa)
    A. walkeri    Walker's Darner
    Anax junius     Common Green Darner
           (ASG: Green Darner plates 343, 346 LAB: Common Green Darner Fig 17, 18)
    A. walsinghami    Giant Darner

Family Macromiidae Cruisers
    Macromia magnifica    Western River Cruiser

Family Corduliidae Emeralds (Green-eyed Skimmers)
    Cordulia shurtleffi    American Emerald
    Epitheca* canis    Beaverpond Baskettail (4: Dog's Head, Genus Tetragoneuria ASG: plate 372 unidentified)
    E.* spinigera    Spiny Baskettail (3: nl 4: Genus Tetragoneuria)
    Somatochlora albicincta    Ringed Emerald (4: nl)
    S. semicircularis    Mountain Emerald

Family Libellulidae Skimmers (ASG: Common Skimmers)
    Brachymesia furcata    Red-tailed Pennant (4: nl)
    Brechmorhoga mendax    Pale-faced Clubskimmer
    Erythemis collocata    Western Pondhawk (3: Genus Lepthemis)
    Leucorrhinia glacialis    Crimson-ringed Whiteface
    L. hudsonica    Hudsonian Whiteface
    L. intacta    Dot-tailed Whiteface
    Libellula comanche    Comanche Skimmer
    L. composita    Bleached Skimmer (4: nl)
    L. croceipennis    Neon Skimmer (4: nl)
    L. forensis    Eight-spotted Skimmer
    L. julia    Chalk-fronted Corporal (4: nl)
    L. luctuosa    Widow Skimmer (CI: in California ASG: Widow plate 365)
    L.* lydia    Common Whitetail (4: Genus Plathemis ASG: White Tail plate 347)
    L. nodisticta    Hoary Skimmer
    L. pulchella    Twelve-spoted Skimmer (4 and 5: Ten Spot ASG: Twelve-spot Skimmer plate 348)
    L. quadrimaculata    Four-spotted Skimmer (4: nl)
    L. saturata Flame Skimmer (ASG: Red Skimmer plates 360, 376, LAB: Big Red Skimmer Fig 21, 22)
    L.* subornata    Desert Whitetail (4: Genus Plathemis)
    Macrodiplax balteata    Marl Pennant (4: nl)
    Orthemis ferruginea    Roseate Skimmer (4: nl)
    Pachydiplax longipennis     Blue Dasher (ASG: Swift Long-winged Skimmer plate 349)
    Paltothemis lineatipes     Red Rock Skimmer (ASG: Rusty Skimmer plate 375)
    Pantala flavescens    Wandering Glider
    P. hymenaea     Spot-winged Glider
    Perethemis intensa    Mexican Amberwing (4: nl)
    Sympetrum* corruptum Variegated Meadowhawk
           (4: Genus Tarnetrum ASG: Robust Pink Skimmer plate 370, LAB: Pastel Skimmer Fig 25)
    S. costiferum    Saffron-winged Meadowhawk (4: also lists the synonym Sympetrum atripes)
    S. danae    Black Meadowhawk
    S.* illotum    Cardinal Meadowhawk
           (4: Genus Tarnetrum ASG: Streak-winged Red Skimmer plate 359, LAB: Red-tinged Skimmer Fig 23, 24)
    S. internum    Cherry-faced Meadowhawk
    S. madidum    Red-veined Meadowhawk
    S. obtrusum    White-faced Meadowhawk (4: nl)
    S. occidentale    Western Meadowhawk (4: lists instead subspecies Sympetrum californicum)
    S. pallipes    Striped Meadowhawk
    Tramea lacerata    Black Saddlebags (ASG: Jagged-edged Saddlebag plate 363)
    T. onusta     Red-mantled Saddlebags (ASG: Red Saddlebag plate 362)

Specific Deletions (from this list)

The damselfly Calopteryx maculata (ASG: Black-winged Damselfly, plate 366) is listed by Essig (5), but is not listed in 1 or 3. Paulson and Garrison (3) note that it is unlikely to occur in California. Similarly Amphiagrion saucium and Enallagma semicirculare, which would normally have been included with a ``5: ?'', are not listed in 1 or 3. Ishnura ramburii is listed with its synonym I. credula by Essig but is not included in 1 or 3. Paulson and Garrison (3) note that it is unlikely to occur in California. I have excluded these four damselfly species from the list above.

Oxyagrion rufulum is listed by Essig (5) but is not in the list from 1 or 3. I have dropped it from this list because Westfall and May (1) do not include it in their book for North America at all. The SIO reference lists this as a subspecies of O. rubidum).

Cordulegaster erroneus is not listed by Paulson and Garrison (3). Needham and Westfall (4) note that the record needs verification.

The following Anisoptera would be included in a listing made using Needham and Westfall (4) alone:
    Aeshna constricta
    Gynacantha nervosa
    Triacanthagyna trifida
    Progomphus obscurus
    Macromia pacifica (4: ?)
    Dythemis velox
    Erythrodiplax funerea
    Erythemis* simplicicollis (3: Genus Lepthemis ASG: Green Clearwing plate 345)
    Pseudoleon superbus
Paulson and Garrison explain why the records for these species are unreliable. Dennis Paulson indicated that, excluding Aeshna constricta, none of these has much, if any, chance of being recorded in California. A. constricta has not been validated.


Ron Lyons (volunteer 1990-1999)
Chula Vista Nature Center, 1000 Gunpowder Point Drive, Chula Vista, CA 91910-1201