New York Natural Heritage Program
Blue-tipped Dancer
Argia tibialis (Rambur, 1842)

Identifying Characteristics [-]
Adult dancers are small, generally dark bodied damselflies distinguished from most other small damselflies by long spines on the legs. The wings are clear. Females may be further distinguished from other species of smaller damselflies by the lack of a spine beneath the 8th segment of the abdomen. Male blue-tipped dancers are mostly black with purple stripes on the thorax, and sky blue 9th and 10th abdominal segments. Females may be brown or blue with wide, black, shoulder stripes and abdomen mostly black. The overall body size of adults is from 1.2-1.5 in (30-38 mm) in length (Lam 2004). Larvae of the dancer species are typically short, stocky and flattened, with moderately large eyes and seven-jointed antennae. Three sets of oblong-shaped gills attach to the terminal end of the abdomen (Westfall and May 1996).

Characters Most Useful for Identification [-]
Although coloration of certain locations on the thorax and abdomen can usually to be used to identify adult dancers to the species level, examination of the terminal appendages at the end of the abdomen in males and characters of wing venation, spots on top of the head, and microscopic features of the thorax are definitive features used in taxonomic keys for female dancers (Westfall and May 1996, Lam 2004).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification [-]
Mature adults are the best life stage for the identification of all damselflies. Larval identification requires the use of detailed taxonomic keys, can be very difficult, and can be very unreliable, especially in the case of larvae that are not yet mature. Larval identification is best done by people with a great deal of expertise in this area.

Behavior [-]
The species of dancers tend to perch on the ground more than other species of damselflies (Lam 2004). Although it often perches in sunny spots, the blue-tipped dancer is reported as perching on vegetation and in the shade more often than some other dancer species (Dunkle 1990). Dancers lay their eggs while in tandem and eggs are laid in floating vegetation, floating debris and wet wood above the water line (Lam 2004, Dunkle 1990).
Blue-tipped Dancer Images
click to enlarge
The Best Time to See
Lam (2004) reports this species from early June through early September for New Jersey, while Donnelly (1999) gives the dates of June 27 through July 25, but the latter is based on only a few records. The majority of the recent records for New York are from July and August, with one from early September (New York Natural Heritage Program 2006). These dates indicate that the blue-tipped dancer may be more of a late summer species.
Present Reproducing
The time of year you would expect to find Blue-tipped Dancer present (blue shading) and reproducing (orange shading) in New York.
Similar Species
  • Dusky Dancer (Argia translata)
    The male dusky dancer is similar in size to the blue-tipped dancer and also has a dark thorax and abdomen, however the dusky dancer has thin blue rings around nearly all of the abdominal segments including the 9th and 10th. The eyes of this species are violet and it lacks purple stripes on the thorax. The female dusky dancer has eyespots, a pale ovipositor, and a long pale area dividing the black shoulder stripe (Lam 2004).
  • Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis violacea)
    The male variable dancer also has sky-blue 9th and 10th abdominal segments and purple on the thorax, however the eyes and abdomen of this distinctive species are also purple.
  • Blue-Fronted Dancer (Argia apicalis)
    Like the blue-tipped dancer, the male blue-fronted dancer has sky blue segments at the tip of the abdomen, however in this species segments 8-10 are blue as opposed to just segments 9 and 10. In addition, the thorax of the male and some female blue-fronted dancers is also sky blue ( hence the name blue-fronted), as opposed to black with purple stripes in the blue-tipped dancer (Lam 2004).