Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

From Monday to Wednesday

with 20 comments

On Monday evening, October 23rd, I bought a copy of John Abbott’s Damselflies of Texas. On Wednesday at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center I photographed these two reddish damselflies in the penultimate stage of their mating sequence on a fern. Thanks to the field guide I’d so recently come home with, I identified them as desert firetails, Telebasis salva. They’re small, with a body length of from 24–29mm, or roughly one inch.

I see that the Spanish name for this damselfly is caballito del diablo. That means ‘little horse of the devil,’ presumably because of the red color. If you’d like to see more details of these little devil’s horses, click the excerpt below.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 1, 2017 at 7:40 AM

20 Responses

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  1. I am always cheered when I see a damselfly.


    December 1, 2017 at 7:55 AM

  2. My mother-in-law hated the word “devil” and shuddered at its mention. “He is a cute little devil.” These tiny creatures don’t merit such a term. 😉 You did a great job capturing the delicacy of the wings and the tiny hairs on the ferns and their leather like quality.


    December 1, 2017 at 8:07 AM

    • Did your mother-in-law disapprove of “devil” on religious grounds?

      I was tempted to say that these damselflies gave me a devil of a time moving from one place to another whenever I got too close with my camera. That would be an exaggeration. Such difficulties are a normal part of a nature photographer’s work.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2017 at 8:21 AM

  3. I’d have to guess that religion entered into it.


    December 1, 2017 at 4:29 PM

    • That seems likely. By coincidence, yesterday we were in our local Costco and one of the women working there said that she’s originally from New York City. More specifically, she said The Bronx, and she mentioned Spuyten Duyvil, a name I hadn’t heard in a long time. It’s Dutch (remember that New York was originally New Amsterdam), and it apparently means ‘spouting devil,’ a reference to dangerous currents there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2017 at 5:06 PM

  4. We have similar red damselflies, plus blue ones and the more usual (huge) green dragonflies, on our pond most years – curiously, this year, they appeared quite late. The two in your photo are not mating, by the way, that comes after the ‘neck clinch’. 🙂 Here’s a video… https://youtu.be/GO6lDnInJ4E


    December 1, 2017 at 8:15 PM

    • Thanks for the clarification. I should’ve been more accurate in my wording. As I understand the mating sequence, it goes through the following stages: the male displays to attract a female; a female indicates receptivity; the male transfers sperm to a pouch on its abdomen; the male grabs the receptive female in the ‘neck clinch’ you mentioned; the female brings the terminal part of her abdomen under and up to receive the male’s sperm.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2017 at 10:22 PM

      • I’ve updated the wording in my text to make it more accurate.

        Steve Schwartzman

        December 1, 2017 at 10:41 PM

      • Sounds about right. Ours tend to be rather shy and like to try to hide behind marginal water-plants when they’re doing it. But sometimes I sneak up on them! 😉


        December 2, 2017 at 11:14 AM

        • Your comment makes it sound like Peeping Val has joined the ranks of entomological Peeping Toms.

          Five minuted before photographing these reddish damselflies I managed to take pictures of some azure ones in the final stage of mating.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 2, 2017 at 11:34 AM

          • Haha!
            So… where are the pics of the azure ones? 😉


            December 2, 2017 at 11:41 AM

            • I was just thinking about that. I try to vary what I show, so perhaps I’ll slip in a picture of the azure damselflies after some time has elapsed from this post.

              Steve Schwartzman

              December 2, 2017 at 11:55 AM

  5. I’ve seen damselflies mating a few times, but the most interesting experience came one day at work. I’d thought a pair of pretty electric blue ones were mating on a handrail of the boat I was working on. After a few minutes, I looked again, and half of one damselfly had disappeared. I looked more closely, and discovered that one was feasting on the other.

    Of course I didn’t have a camera with me at work, but once the meal was completed and the still-living creature flew off, I collected the leftovers. The wings and eyes were the only parts left. The wings blew away, but I brought the eyes home. I didn’t yet have my macro lens, so this isn’t a great photo, but it does show how a seemingly happy relationship can end — at least in the damselfly world.


    December 1, 2017 at 8:48 PM

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