American Rubyspot

I have seen black dragonflies, green damselflies, green dragonflies, and blue. However, until this past week- I had never seen a red dragonfly or a red damselfly.

This brilliant red damselfly is known as an American Rubyspot. My son Sebastian and I discovered it as we were wading in Cypress Creek. (Cypress Creek is located in northwest Alabama). My ten year old son, who is usually someone that isn't overcome with hyperbole, upon seeing this damselfly exclaimed, "that is a pretty dragonfly!"

The scientific name of this insect is Hetaerina americana. Hetaera is a reference to ancient Greek courtesans- courtesans were a "special class" of educated female companions. Naming this brightly colored, dainty damselfly after courtesans seems like a good idea. Ironically, as with many other animals- it is the male that is the more brilliant and striking gender of the species. The Rubyspots in the accompanying photos are both male. The female is much less brilliant and has no red colorations.

Damselflies are interesting. Like dragonflies, their eyes take up most of their head. Damselflies are more dainty then their dragonfly cousins. Whereas the dragonflies have their wings stretched out stiff, affixed atop and perpendicular to their body; damselflies keep their wings folded and parallel to their body.
Thankfully, this insect is more than just a pretty face. Damselflies enjoy dining on mosquitos. From childhood, when they are but nymphs living in the water, until adulthood, damselflies are voracious eaters of mosquitos. As nymphs they eat the mosquito larvae and as adults they can catch and eat the flying mosquitos.

A old adage that I have heard a few times regarding mosquitos: "God made mosquitos to let us know that we aren't in heaven." Perhaps, but Providence was also kind enough to provide the lovely damselflies and dragonflies to help keep the balance.

I love nature, it never ceases to amaze and fascinate me. The American Rubyspot is a true jewel.


Steve said...


Nice article. I don't recall ever seeing the American Rubyspot either (in my days in NW Alabama). I also did not know the wing difference in Dragon flies vs Damselflies. Thanks for the good research and great pictures.

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

Wow, Daniel. I've never seen a Rubyspot damselfly. Leave it to our Nature at Close Range reporter to track down this illusive winged beauty and tell us all about him! Thanks, Daniel!

Maria said...

good article! we r doing a insect project and i chose the american ruby spot because of its wonderous beauty!

Kari said...

I love seeing them. I don't recall ever seeing so many as where I am now.