Fragile Forktail: The Most Elegant of Damselflies

All damselflies—the tiny, slimmed-down cousins of dragonflies in the order Odonata—are elegant creatures, but the Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita) is in a class by itself. Is it the name alone that makes me think so? Fragility can make anything—whether it’s a bug or a piece of furniture—seem more graceful and refined; and the Fragile Forktail’s minute size and extreme thinness often give the impression that it’s only a breath away from expiring.

But for me, its elegance lies more in color than in shape: in the male, a cool and restrained arrangement of black and green; in the female, a frosted shade of the palest sky blue. Such subdued but stylish colors lead me to think of this forktail as the tastefully coutured Holly Golightly of the insect tribe.

Photo of a female Fragile Forktail.
A female Fragile Forktail.

Then there’s that uniquely broken stripe on top of the thorax that takes the shape of an audacious exclamation point (!). As if to reflect my own excitement at finding, in the meadow grass or pond-side weeds, a flying insect so small and finely colored that it’s capable of vanishing in a puff of wind or the blink of an eye.

Photo of a Fragile Forktail with an arrow pointing to the broken stripe on top of the thorax.
The broken thoracic stripe shown here is unique among damselflies and makes the Fragile Forktail relatively easy to identify. This feature is also present on the female but is harder to distinguish.
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2 thoughts on “Fragile Forktail: The Most Elegant of Damselflies”

  1. If memory serves, the damsel flies emerge in June and dance over the ponds. They are much appreciated by insect lovers like me, but even more appreciated at this time by the trout. Ed, thanks for your fine perceptions. Keep up the good work.


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