Argia moesta

Powdered Dancer

Argia moesta, Powdered Dancer male


Family: Coenagrionidae

Length: typically 38-42 mm


The Powdered Dancer is an interesting species. The male has a mostly white head and thorax, the only such species that lives in our region. Moreover, this is one of the few damselfly species where the female is more colorful than the male. In addition, the female comes in two distinct color variations.

Powdered Dancer, Argia moesta, pair in tandemWatching Odes at ponds, you would seldom or never encounter a Powdered Dancer. Begin watching at rivers, however, and this species is one of the first you will encounter. The species also appears occasionally at large lakes with rocky shores.

The male is a dark-colored damselfly that develops extensive pruinosity as it matures. (Pruinosity is a waxy, light-colored substance that builds up on a damselfly's body, obscuring whatever coloration lies beneath.) In the photos above, the male's black and brown coloration is starting to be obscured by the white pruinosity.

Powdered Dancer, Argia moestaAs for females, some are light blue on the head and thorax, and might almost be mistaken for a male or female Blue-Fronted Dancer. Male Blue-Fronted Dancers would have a blue tip to the abdomen, however. A female Blue-Fronted Dancer would be mostly black on top of the abdomen, and the sides of abdominal segment nine would be darker.

Females also appear in a brown variation, which may have greenish overtones to it.

One of the great twentieth century entomologists, Donald J. Borror, studied this species by marking individuals and following individuals life history. Among other things, Borror concluded that "The adults do not fly very far, and their movement from place to place is rather slow. Most of the movement is to and from the river; there is relatively little movement upstream or downstream." (Borror, 1934.)

Borror reported that at the river the sex ratio was about even, but if one takes into account the individuals living in field and meadow as well, the sex ratio is actually about 2:1 favoring the females.


Powdered Dancer, Argia moesta

Powdered Dancer, Argia moesta 
Like the thorax, the face is soon covered with pruinosity. 


Powdered Dancer, Argia moesta
There is no particular pattern on the male's abdominal tip; just pruinosity that increases with age. 


Powdered Dancer, Argia moesta female
The blue color variety of the female Powdered Dancer. Note that unlike the female Blue-Fronted Dancer, the female Powdered Dancer has lighter coloration on top of the abdomen, not black.

Insects of West Virginia