New York Natural Heritage Program
New England Bluet
Enallagma laterale Morse, 1895

Identifying Characteristics [-]
The New England bluet is one of a large number of species of small (typically 1-1.5 inches) damselflies in the genus Enallagma, collectively referred to as the bluets, and most of which are predominantly black and sky blue in coloration and quite similar to one another in overall appearance. Bluets have large, widely separated eyes with colored "eyespots" (or postocular spots) on the top of the head next to the eyes, black stripes on the thorax, and a pattern of black with blue (usually), red, orange, or yellow on the abdomen, and clear (untinted) wings. At 1-1.1 inches (25-28 mm) in length, the New England bluet is one of the smaller members of the genus (Lam 2004). In the New England bluet, the eyespots are small and tear shaped. The thorax is blue with black stripes on the shoulder and a broad, black stripe in the middle of the thorax. Like some other members of the genus, the abdomen has the overall appearance of having more blue than black. Abdominal segments 1 through 5 are predominantly blue with smaller black areas at the rear end of the segment. Segments 6 and 7 are mostly black, while segments 8 and 9 are again mostly blue. Segment 8 however, has a black mark on the side of the segment, hence the scientific name, laterale. The size of this lateral mark is variable. Segment 10 is black above and blue below. The thorax of the female is similar to the males, but the pale blue areas of the male are tan to blue-gray in females. The abdomen of the female lacks the alternating blue-black pattern of the male, as all segments are predominantly black above and pale, tan to blue-gray below. Bluet larvae are small, and fairly slim, with prominent eyes, short antennae, and three external gills attached to the rear of the abdomen. They climb among aquatic vegetation until they are ready to emerge as adults. (Nikula et al. 2003, Lam 2004, Carpenter 1991).

Characters Most Useful for Identification [-]
The bluets are one of the most difficult odonate groups to identify. Examination of the terminal appendages at the end of the abdomen with a hand lens or microscope is often required to identify males to species while microscopic examination is required to distinguish most females.

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 [-]
As with most other damselflies, New England bluets are not strong fliers and spend most of their time flying through the emergent and shoreline vegetation at the ponds where they live. They also use forest roads or clearings close to the water, particularly after they have first emerged. The females lay their eggs in floating and emergent vegetation while flying in tandem with a male.
New England Bluet Images
click to enlarge
The Best Time to See
This is an early-season species with a fairly brief flight period. Records for New York are from May 26 to June 23 (New York Natural Heritage Program 2005). Nikula et al. (2003) show a flight season for Massachusetts of mid-May to mid-July, while Westfall and May (1996) give an early date of May 6 for Massachusetts and a late date of July 19 for Maine.
Present Reproducing
The time of year you would expect to find New England Bluet present (blue shading) and reproducing (orange shading) in New York.
Similar Species
  • Pine Barrens Bluet (Enallagma recurvatum)
    The New England bluet is most easily confused with the Pine Barrens bluet as it may also have a small black mark on the side of the 8th abdominal segment. The black lateral mark is smaller in the Pine Barrens bluet and is sometimes absent. The blue shoulder stripe of the Pine Barrens bluet is often pinched or sometimes broken (Lam 2004). The male abdominal appendages differ in the two species and should also be examined to confirm identification to species. The cerci is upturned in the Pine Barrens bluet and slightly bifid or, indented, in the New England bluet.
  • Hagen's Bluet (Enallagma hageni)
    Female New England bluets are virtually indistinguishable from female Hagen's bluets without microsopic examination of certain features (the mesostigmal plates).
  • Marsh Bluet (Enallagma ebrium)
    Female New England bluets are virtually indistinguishable from female Hagen's bluets without microsopic examination of certain features (the mesostigmal plates).