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Calopteryx virgo male.jpg
Juvenile male
Beautiful demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) male 3.jpg
Adult male
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Odonata
Suborder: Zygoptera
Family: Calopterygidae
Sélys, 1850
  • Caliphaeinae
  • Calopteryginae
  • Hetaerininae

See text for genera

The Calopterygidae are a family of damselflies, in the suborder Zygoptera.[1] They are commonly known as the broad-winged damselflies,[2] demoiselles, or jewelwings.[3] These rather large damselflies have wingspans of 50–80 mm (compared to about 44 mm in the common bluetail damselfly, Ischnura elegans) and are often metallic-coloured. The family contains some 150 species.

The Calopterygidae are found on every continent except Antarctica. They live along rivers and streams.[4]


The name is derived from Greek kalos meaning beautiful and ptery meaning winged.


The adults have metallic bodies; their wings are broader, with wider bases than other damselflies, and at rest hold their wings parallel to the body, slightly elevated. Some species have conspicuously colored wings; in males, the wings are usually blue, without pterostigmas, in females green or brown.[5][6] Species are often quite variable in color and patterning, and they are sexually dimorphic. Color intensity may fade with age.[4] The wings are heavily veined, having often 18 or more antenodal veins. The first segment of their antennae is longer than the combined length of the other segments. They have a jerky, skipping form of flight and they perch horizontally on twigs near the water edge.[5][6]

Calopterygidae nymphs have lateral gills are longer than the median gills.[7] The nymphs have a flattened, pentagonal-shaped head, a long first antennal segment and long legs. They are found among submerged aquatic plants, woody debris and the exposed roots of streamside plants. There is a single generation per year.[6]


Males are often territorial, guarding riverine habitat that is sought after by females for egg deposition. Some males are not territorial. Within a species there may be a territorial and nonterritorial morph, which may be different in coloration.[4]

Some species display courtship behavior, especially displays of wing movement by the male.[4] At least one genus (Hetaerina) displays lekking behavior.[8]

During mating, the male first removes other males' sperm from the female's reproductive tract, then places his own sperm there. The intromittent organ of the male has spines that physically remove rival sperm and also stimulate the female's muscles to contract and expel the sperm. In many species, the male accompanies the female when she searches for a site to lay eggs; in some cases, he even remains attached to her.[4]


Western bluewing (Sapho ciliata) male, Ghana
Glistening demoiselle (Phaon iridipennis) male, Ghana

Subfamily Caliphaeinae Tillyard & Fraser, 1939 – the clearwings:

Subfamily Calopteryginae Selys, 1859 – the demoiselles:

Subfamily Hetaerininae Selys, 1853 – the rubyspots and others:


  1. ^ "Family CALOPTERYGIDAE". Australian Faunal Directory. Australian Biological Resources Study. 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  2. ^ Calopterygidae. Digital Key to Aquatic Insects of North Dakota. Valley City State University.
  3. ^ Calopterygidae. Dragonflies and Damselflies of Ecuador. Electronic Field Guide Project, University of Massachusetts, Boston.
  4. ^ a b c d e Córdoba-Aguilar, A. & Cordero-Rivera, A. (2005). Evolution and ecology of Calopterygidae (Zygoptera: Odonata): status of knowledge and research perspectives. Neotrop. Entomol 34(6), 861-879.
  5. ^ a b Dijkstra, K. B. Field Guide to the Dragonflies of Britain and Europe. British Wildlife Publishing, 2006. ISBN 0-9531399-4-8. Pages 23, 65.
  6. ^ a b c Capinera, J. L. (2008). Encyclopedia of Entomology. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 1243–1244. ISBN 978-1-4020-6242-1.
  7. ^ Calopterygidae. UNH Center for Freshwater Biology.
  8. ^ Córdoba-Aguilar, A., et al. (2009). The lek mating system of Hetaerina damselflies (Insecta: Calopterygidae). Behaviour, 146, 189-207.

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