Common Name: Desert Shadowdamsel
Scientific Name: Palaemnema domina 

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Odonata
Family: Platystictidae
Genus: Palaemnema
Specis: P. domina 



Moderate- sized slender damselfly of shaded areas with black and blue thorax and blue abdomen tip. Males eyes are dark brown above, dull yellowish below. Prothorax entirely blue, conspicuous. thorax and with black stripes a wide median stripe, narrower humeral stripe, and lower side stripe. Abdomen brown with a black terminal ring on s2-7, white to a pale blue basal ring on it.


Like the birds and butterflies, the dragonflies of the desert come in vibrant colors. They fly; they have interesting life histories and amazing behaviors. When they emerge from their natal waters, they change from ugly aquatic nymph to beautiful, dazzling flying predators. See them during the spring, summer and early fall months. The desert species of dragonflies vary in size from the Giant Darner, which at nearly six inches is the largest in North America, to the Citrine Forktail, a damselfly, that at less than one inch is North America’s very smallest. Both of these species are desert specialists preferring arid lands with warm waters. All the in-between sizes are present too, with many shapes and a variety of hues represented.


They come not only in red, fuchsia, orange, pink, blue, gold, saffron, black, emerald, maroon, earth tones, and more, but also in metallic colors. Some have colored, spotted or banded wings; others may have clear wings but clubbed abdomens or a spike on their tail. And, no, they do not sting or bite. They have mouths that they do use to bite their prey (mostly mosquitoes and gnats) but they do not bite people unless caught and handled roughly, and even then it's akin to getting a good pinch. They have no stingers: the projections on the end of their abdomens are their claspers, used by the male to hold the female in their unique 'wheel' mating position.


Dragonfly studies in the United States are in their infancy, as the study of birds was a century ago. Believe it or not, just a few years ago a much smaller number of species of Odonata (the scientific name for the dragonfly's order that includes dragonflies and damselflies) were known to exist in the southwest’s deserts. Many species have been added just in the last few years, mostly through observation of live flying insects.!


Other species were found through reviews of museum specimens and photographic records. And the census is nowhere near complete; there may be a few surprises yet! Part of the thrill of watching dragonflies is the ability for even beginners to add to the understanding of their distribution, life cycles and habit requirements You could easily go out and find a new species in a new locality or observe and record new behavior or flight data! We still have very much to learn and record their distribution, life histories and flight seasons. Like dragonflies everywhere, our desert species start life as a tiny egg, not much larger than the period at the end of this sentence. Most species scatter their eggs freely over a waterway or insert them into vegetation that is floating in or overhanging water. Some eggs hatch within weeks; others overwinter before hatching.


The larval stage is called a nymph or, more properly, a larva. Dragonfly larvae look like fierce dragons and crawl about underwater hunting for food. A unique feature is their labium, a lower lip that they project to hook prey. While damselfly larvae have feather-like gills at the end of their abdomen, dragonfly larvae do not. All go through about a dozen molts, or instars, before crawling out onto a stem or rock to emerge.


Author: Bryce L.
Published: 3/2013 



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