Ebony Jewelwing: Essential Facts and Tips for Enthusiasts

The Ebony Jewelwing is a stunning damselfly found in eastern North America. Known for its iridescent green body and distinctive black wings, this damselfly is a fascinating creature to observe and learn about. Its scientific name is Calopteryx maculata, and it belongs to the family Calopterygidae. These damselflies are commonly found near streams in wooded areas, where they flutter around and showcase their beauty.

Males and females have some differences in appearance, making them easy to distinguish. Males have all-black wings and metallic blue-green bodies, while females have smoky bronze wings with a white spot near the tip, and their bodies are more brownish in color. Both sexes exhibit iridescence, which changes with the angle of light, adding to their allure.

The Ebony Jewelwing has a close relative called the River Jewelwing, but there are some differences between the two species. The River Jewelwing’s wings are more slender and have a smoky transparent appearance for the first two-thirds of the wing, with only the tips being coal black. Observing these unique creatures is a fascinating experience, whether for the casual nature lover or the serious entomologist.

Ebony Jewelwing Overview

Classification and Range

The Ebony Jewelwing, scientifically known as Calopteryx maculata, belongs to the Animalia kingdom and Arthropoda phylum. It is an insect in the Odonata order and part of the Calopterygidae family. This beautiful damselfly species is endemic to eastern North America.

Distinctive Features

Ebony Jewelwings display the following unique features:

  • Iridescent green body
  • Dark wings (completely black for males, smoky bronze for females)
  • White spot (pterostigma) at the outer edge of females’ wings

Male vs Female Ebony Jewelwing:

Males Females
All-black wings Smoky bronze wings
Metallic blue-green body Duller, more brownish body

Habitat

Ebony Jewelwings are typically found in wooded areas near streams and small rivers. Their fluttery flight pattern allows them to stay close to their habitat, rarely venturing too far away.

Physical Characteristics

Male and Female Differences

  • Males: all-black wings, metallic blue-green bodies
  • Females: smoky bronze wings, duller and more brownish body, white spot (pterostigma) on wings

The iridescent green body of the ebony jewelwing separates it into distinct appearances for males and females. Males have metallic blue-green bodies, while females are generally duller and more brownish.

Size and Body Length

  • Medium-sized damselflies
  • Approximately 2 inches in length

Ebony jewelwings are medium-sized damselflies, with a body length of around 2 inches, making them larger than some dragonflies.

Wings

  • Males: completely black wings
  • Females: smoky bronze wings with white spot (pterostigma) near outer edge

As previously mentioned, the wings of male ebony jewelwings are completely black, whereas female wings are smoky bronze with a distinct white spot (pterostigma) at the outer edge. This difference in wing coloration is a key aspect in distinguishing between male and female ebony jewelwings.

Coloration

  • Iridescent green body color
  • Varies between metallic blue-green (males) and duller brownish-green (females)

The iridescent body of these insects is predominantly green, with some variations in color between the sexes. Males have a more metallic blue-green body, while females exhibit a duller, brownish-green color.

Life Cycle and Behavior

Reproduction and Mating

The ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata) is an iridescent green damselfly with dark wings, endemic to eastern North America. They reproduce during the summer season, and mating takes place near streams and wooded areas. Males perform an elaborate display to attract females, showing off their colorful metallic blue-green bodies.

Nymphs and Molting

After mating, females lay their eggs in streams. The eggs develop into aquatic larvae called naiads or nymphs. Throughout their development, these nymphs undergo several molting stages, gradually transforming into their adult form. The complete nymph-development process includes:

  • Nymphs hatch from eggs
  • Nymphs molt multiple times
  • Nymphs emerge as adults

Territoriality and Feeding Behavior

Adult ebony jewelwings are territorial creatures, often found around streams in wooded areas. They don’t fly far from their territory and feed on various aquatic invertebrates. Some key features of the ebony jewelwing’s territorial and feeding behavior include:

  • Males establish territories near streams
  • Adults feed on aquatic invertebrates
  • Males defend their territory against other males

Comparing Adult vs Nymph Ebony Jewelwing

Characteristic Adult Ebony Jewelwing Nymph Ebony Jewelwing
Appearance Iridescent green body with dark wings Brown or greenish-brown with a similar shape to the adult but without wings
Habitat Streams in wooded areas Aquatic streams where eggs were laid
Feeding Aquatic invertebrates Aquatic invertebrates, mostly smaller insects
Behavior Territorial, males defend territory Molting and growing, generally vulnerable to predators

Remember to treat nature respectfully and enjoy observing the fascinating life cycle and behavior of the ebony jewelwing!

Diet and Predation

Feeding Habits

The Ebony Jewelwing is an aquatic damselfly that mainly feeds on small flying insects. They are known for their:

  • Quick and agile movements
  • Ability to snatch insects out of the air

For example, their diet may include:

  • Mosquitoes
  • Gnats
  • Small flies

Predators and Threats

The Ebony Jewelwing faces several predators and threats in their natural habitat. Some common predators are:

These predators are attracted to the Ebony Jewelwing’s iridescent green body and dark wings.

Comparison of common predators:

Predator Method of Predation Habitat
Fish Ambushing & chasing Aquatic
Birds Aerial pursuit & sharp beaks Terrestrial

Their habitat, which typically consists of streams in wooded areas, can also pose threats, such as:

  • Changes in water quality or temperature
  • Human impacts on surrounding vegetation

In conclusion, the Ebony Jewelwing’s diet consists of small flying insects. They face predators such as fish and birds, as well as threats in their aquatic habitat. The Ebony Jewelwing’s iridescent color and quick movements make it a remarkable species worth conserving.

Conservation and Human Interaction

Population Distribution and Status

The Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata) is native to eastern North America, ranging from Canada to Central Texas1. Their habitats include:

  • Slow-moving streams
  • Wetlands
  • Forests near aquatic plants

These damselflies have a stable population and are not currently threatened2.

Importance in Ecosystem

The Ebony Jewelwing plays a vital role in the ecosystem, particularly in maintaining a healthy balance of insect populations. Adults consume various small insects, while their larvae control aquatic pests like mosquitoes3.

Comparison of Ebony Jewelwing and River Jewelwing:

Feature Ebony Jewelwing River Jewelwing
Size 2 inches Smaller than EbonyJewelwing
Body Color Iridescent green Similar, but with more slender wings
Wings Completely black (male) Smoky bronze (female) Partial black, more transparent
Distribution Eastern North America1 Similar range

Characteristics of Ebony Jewelwing:

  • Iridescent green body
  • Large black wings
  • Endemic to eastern North America
  • Thrives in slow-moving streams, wetlands, and forests

In conclusion, the Ebony Jewelwing is a valuable member of the ecosystem, as it helps maintain the insect population balance and adds beauty to various habitats across North America.

Footnotes

  1. Calopteryx maculata – University of Florida 2

  2. Missouri Department of Conservation

  3. U.S. National Park Service

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Ebony Jewelwing

 

Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly
June 24, 2010
Hi Daniel, I ran across this handsome fellow beside a country road about three weeks ago. I know you have several photos of these already on your website. When I was a kid everyone in this area called them “snake doctors” (I always walked very wary when I saw one for fear a snake was around) They are so beautiful I wanted to share it, but with all of the images you have already you may not want to use the webspace. It appears this is a male since he doesn’t have a white spot on his wing tips. Thanks and have a wonderful day..
Richard
North Middle Tennessee

Ebony Jewelwing

Hi again Richard,
What a lovely photo of a lovely Ebony Jewelwing.  We saw several in Mill Creek Park during our recent visit to our hometown in Ohio.

Letter 2 – Ebony Jewelwing

 

Dragonfly?
Location:  On the Moose River in the Adirondacks, NY
July 26, 2010 11:43 am
Hi again. This is Tristi from Oswego NY. 🙂 I have been shooting a lot of pictures of bugs this summer. Mostly dragonflies. I have a ridiculously huge Collection of Dragonfly pictures now. They are fascinating to photograph. Me and my boyfriend took a trip up north to the Adirondacks for some kayaking and I found this beautiful guy next to a river. It is unlike any other I have seen. It has the body shape of a dragonfly. Same type of eyes and legs that I have seen a million times but its beautiful metallic blue and green color and jet black wings struck me a very different. The wing shape and the way it flew wasn’t the typical dragonfly way. Just thought you and others would like to see it 🙂
Tristi

Ebony Jewelwing

Hi Tristi,
Though your Ebony Jewelwing,
Calopteryx maculata, is in the order Odonata along with the Dragonflies, it is taxonomically classified in Zygoptera, a different suborder.  Damselflies frequently fold their wings, unlike Dragonflies that rest with flat wings, and the flight of Damselflies is much more feeble than the darting movement associated with Dragonflies.  Sadly, we are woefully behind in responding to emails, so if you have any recently submitted images that did not get posted, please try to resubmit, and please only one species per letter.

Letter 3 – Ebony Jewelwing

 

Please identify this insect!
Location:  Ontario, Canada
September 16, 2010 9:37 pm
We took this beautiful photo of what insect?
Signature:  bugged-eyed

Ebony Jewelwing

Dear bugged-eyed,
We believe your Damselfly is an Ebony Jewelwing.

Letter 4 – Ebony Jewelwing from Canada

 

Subject: Ebony Jewelwing
Location: Short Hills Provincial Park, Thorold, Ontario
July 14, 2015 4:52 am
Hi WTB!
…  It was a very colourful day for bugs, as you can see — I was also able to see many Ebony Jewelwings, and they exhibited a similar range of colours. Some were a lighter aquamarine colour, and some, like the last picture provided, were more of an indigo colour.
Anyway, I love your site, and hope you enjoy these pictures even if you don’t post them. Thank you for the great service you provide 🙂
Signature: Brad

Ebony Jewelwing
Ebony Jewelwing

Dear Brad,
Thanks for sending us a beautiful image of a gorgeous male Ebony Jewelwing, a species of Damselfly

Letter 5 – Mating Ebony Jewelwings

 

Alfred Kinsey’s Birthday (06/23/2006) Mating Damselflies
Dear Bugman,
I’m sending you a shot of some damselflies who decided to mate on top of my camera the other day. I managed to get them in my hand so I could take some shots of them. I still can’t believe how lucky I was to have them land right on my camera while I was trying to take a picture of another damselfly. I’m not sure what kind they are. maybe black winged damselflies, or ebony jewelwings? We were down by a lake which had a small stream that drained into it. I noticed these critters all through the woods on our way to the lake (mostly by the stream).
Have a great day,
Yvonne
Barrie, Ontario

Hi Yvonne,
We can’t think of a better photo to post on our site today in honor of the birth of Alfred Kinsey, the entomologist who studied Gall Wasps and Human Sexuality, than your lovely photo of mating Broad Winged Damselflies. We believe they are Ebony Jewelwings.

Letter 6 – Mating Ebony Jewelwings

 

Bug love!!
Good Morning!
My friend, Kevin, bought a new camera and went for a nature hike (here in Kentucky) and as he knows that I like to take photos of insects and spiders he showed me the assortment that he had taken. Amongst them was this spectacular bug love photo. I explained to him about your collections and he gave me the file to send to you. I hope you enjoy it, I thought it was particularly lovely when rotated to the left (also attached). Sincerely,
Teresa
(Normally photographing the bugs of Wisconsin…)

Hi Teresa,
Kevin’s image of mating Ebony Jewelwings, Calopteryx maculata, a species of Damselfly, is pretty great. We also prefer the rotated image, not only for the more obvious heart space produced between the bodies, but because it formats so nicely to our site while maximizing the image size. The photo has excellent lighting and a perfect camera angle for showcasing these lovely insects caught in the act.

Letter 7 – Mating Ebony Jewelwings

 

Alfred Kinsey’s Birthday (06/23/2006) Mating Damselflies
Dear Bugman,
I’m sending you a shot of some damselflies who decided to mate on top of my camera the other day. I managed to get them in my hand so I could take some shots of them. I still can’t believe how lucky I was to have them land right on my camera while I was trying to take a picture of another damselfly. I’m not sure what kind they are. maybe black winged damselflies, or ebony jewelwings? We were down by a lake which had a small stream that drained into it. I noticed these critters all through the woods on our way to the lake (mostly by the stream).
Have a great day,
Yvonne
Barrie, Ontario

Hi Yvonne,
We can’t think of a better photo to post on our site today in honor of the birth of Alfred Kinsey, the entomologist who studied Gall Wasps and Human Sexuality, than your lovely photo of mating Broad Winged Damselflies. We believe they are Ebony Jewelwings.

Letter 8 – Mating Ebony Jewelwings

 

Mating Damselflies
Tue, Jun 30, 2009 at 7:39 PM
Do you really need an explanation? 🙂
ET
Columbia, MD

Ebony Jewelwings Mating
Ebony Jewelwings Mating

Dear ET,
Your photo of mating Ebony Jewelwings, Calopteryx maculata, is gorgeous, and we thought our readers would probably like additional information.  The male has the darker wings and the female has the white spot on the wings.  BugGuide has additional information on this eastern North American species, including “Not a strong flier: adults flutter, butterfly-like, a short distance when disturbed. They are easy to get close to as long as you approach slowly and don’t make any sudden movements. Ebony Jewelwings prefer sunny spots in the woods but usually perch only a minute or two before flitting to another nearby spot.”  BugGuide has sadly shied away from discussing the sexual behavior of the species.  We decided to try to include some of that and located a German site that explained  “The male sex organ is located at the front part of the abdomen. Damselflies commonly fly in pairs during mating. Damselfly adults use their hind legs, which are covered with hairs to capture prey as they fly. They hold the prey in their legs and devour it by chewing. Adults are usually found flying near plants, usually in irrigated rice fields during the daytime throughout the year. The damselfly’s mating pattern is unusual. The male deposits sperm by bending the abdomen forward and then clasping the female behind the head with its claspers on the tip of his abdomen. The female then loops her abdomen forward and picks up the sperm from the male. The mating pairs are seen flying and clinging in tandem. ”  And finally, just to shake things up a bit, we located a National Geographic online article entitled Damselfly Mating Game Turns Some Males Gay by James Owen. Owen writes:  “Disguises used by female damselflies to avoid unwanted sexual advances can cause males to seek out their own sex, a new study suggests. Belgian researchers investigated why male damselflies often try to mate with each other. The scientists say the reason could lie with females that adopt a range of appearances to throw potential mates off their scent. In an evolutionary battle of the sexes, males become attracted to a range of different looks, with some actually preferring a more masculine appearance. ”  Later in the article, this is nicely explained.  Owen continues with the following conclusions of the Belgian team:  “Van Gossum, the study author, says most researchers agree such polymorphism most likely results from sexual conflict, with females evolving traits to avoid excessive harassment. While plenty of sex might suit male damselflies, this isn’t the case for females. Joan Roughgarden is a professor of biological sciences at Stanford University in California. She writes, ‘Copulation ranges from over one hour to over six hours, averaging three hours. While a long copulation might seem like great fun, this can waste a whole day and be too much of a good thing, especially if carried out day after day over a life span that is only a few days long.  Roughgarden adds that female damselflies collect all the sperm they need to reproduce from a single mating.”  Some of our readers will be comforted to know that the image that you submitted depicts a traditional male/female coupling.

Letter 9 – Mating Ebony Jewelwings

 

Mating Ebony Jewelwings in CT
Location: Ridgefield, CT
September 25, 2011 10:20 am
How gorgeous are these Jewelwings??
I did not know before seeing this pair and doing a little searching at WTB that these are the male and female, even with the different looks.
What beautiful colors.
Signature: Hellywell

Mating Ebony Jewelwings

Dear Hellywell,
Thanks so much for sending us your wonderful photos of the sexually dimorphic Ebony Jewelwings, 
Calopteryx maculata, in the act of assuming the mating position.  The complete “wheel” position has not yet been achieved.  The male has the metallic body and the black wings.  The female has gray wings with a white spot at the tip.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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