Blue-tipped Dancer

Argia tibialis (Rambur, 1842)

Blue-tipped Dancer
Jeremy Martin

Insecta (Insects)
Coenagrionidae (Pond Damsels)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Vulnerable in New York - Vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to rarity or other factors (but not currently imperiled); typically 21 to 80 populations or locations in New York, few individuals, restricted range, few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or recent and widespread declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

The blue markings on blue-tipped dancers and some other odonate species turn gray at cool temperatures (Dunkle 1990).

State Ranking Justification

To date, this species has been recorded on just ten rivers or streams in just two regions of the state. Although it is highly likely that it will be found on additional waters, it is uncertain as to whether it will be found in additional drainages. There are a number of potential and likely threats to the lotic waters occupied by this species and there is virtually no information available on the linear extent of occupied rivers and streams or population sizes on these waters.

Short-term Trends

There is no information on population trends for this species at known locations, as nearly all of the sites have only recently been documented. It is not clear if this southern species is expanding its range northward or if the recent records simply reflect the general increase in survey efforts for odonates in general.

Long-term Trends

The fact that only one record was known historically and that a number of new locations for this southern species have been found in recent years, suggests that this species may be expanding its range to the north.

Conservation and Management


Little published information is available citing specific cases of negative impacts to vatious species of river dwelling odonates, but any activities which degrade the sensitive hydrology of these habitats would threaten populations of these species. The most important likely negative impacts would come from changes in the natural hydrology such as the building of dams, increases in sediment load of the river or stream (such as might result should logging occur down to the river edge), changes in dissolved oxygen content, direct effects of pesticides, and chemical contamination by runoff of agricultural or other discharge.

Research Needs

Research aimed at obtaining information on population size at occupied sites would be useful in determining the overall population for this species in the state. Research on larval habitat requirements may provide a better understanding of the species tolerance to various hydrological disturbances.



The blue-tipped dancer is predominantly a species of flowing waters including fast or slow-flowing rivers and streams. Although it also occurs at swamps and ponds in some parts of the range, all New York records to date are from flowing waters (Lam 2004, New York Natural Heritage Program 2006).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Confined river (guide)
    The aquatic community of relatively large, fast flowing sections of streams with a moderate to gentle gradient.
  • Rocky headwater stream (guide)
    The aquatic community of a small- to moderate-sized perennial rocky stream typically with a moderate to steep gradient, and cold water that flows over eroded bedrock, boulders, or cobbles in the area where a stream system originates.


New York State Distribution

Based on existing records, the range of this species in the state is restricted to the Great Lakes and Lower Hudson drainages where it has been recorded from seven counties. It seems likely that the species will also be found in counties across the southern tier of the state as additional surveys take place.

Global Distribution

The range of the blue-tipped dancer extends from Florida west to Texas, and north to Colorado, Minnesota, southern Ontario, New York and New Jersey (Dunkle 1990, Lam 2004)

Best Places to See

  • Genesee River in Letchworth State Park (Livingston County)

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

Adult dancers are small, generally dark bodied damselflies distinguished from most other small damselflies by long spines on the legs. The wings are clear. Females may be further distinguished from other species of smaller damselflies by the lack of a spine beneath the 8th segment of the abdomen. Male blue-tipped dancers are mostly black with purple stripes on the thorax, and sky blue 9th and 10th abdominal segments. Females may be brown or blue with wide, black, shoulder stripes and abdomen mostly black. The overall body size of adults is from 1.2-1.5 in (30-38 mm) in length (Lam 2004). Larvae of the dancer species are typically short, stocky and flattened, with moderately large eyes and seven-jointed antennae. Three sets of oblong-shaped gills attach to the terminal end of the abdomen (Westfall and May 1996).

Characters Most Useful for Identification

Although coloration of certain locations on the thorax and abdomen can usually to be used to identify adult dancers to the species level, examination of the terminal appendages at the end of the abdomen in males and characters of wing venation, spots on top of the head, and microscopic features of the thorax are definitive features used in taxonomic keys for female dancers (Westfall and May 1996, Lam 2004).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

Mature adults are the best life stage for the identification of all damselflies. Larval identification requires the use of detailed taxonomic keys, can be very difficult, and can be very unreliable, especially in the case of larvae that are not yet mature. Larval identification is best done by people with a great deal of expertise in this area.


The species of dancers tend to perch on the ground more than other species of damselflies (Lam 2004). Although it often perches in sunny spots, the blue-tipped dancer is reported as perching on vegetation and in the shade more often than some other dancer species (Dunkle 1990). Dancers lay their eggs while in tandem and eggs are laid in floating vegetation, floating debris and wet wood above the water line (Lam 2004, Dunkle 1990).

Best Time to See

Lam (2004) reports this species from early June through early September for New Jersey, while Donnelly (1999) gives the dates of June 27 through July 25, but the latter is based on only a few records. The majority of the recent records for New York are from July and August, with one from early September (New York Natural Heritage Program 2006). These dates indicate that the blue-tipped dancer may be more of a late summer species.

  • Present
  • Reproducing

The time of year you would expect to find Blue-tipped Dancer present and reproducing in New York.

Similar Species

  • Blue-fronted Dancer (Argia apicalis)
    Like the blue-tipped dancer, the male blue-fronted dancer has sky blue segments at the tip of the abdomen, however in this species segments 8-10 are blue as opposed to just segments 9 and 10. In addition, the thorax of the male and some female blue-fronted dancers is also sky blue ( hence the name blue-fronted), as opposed to black with purple stripes in the blue-tipped dancer (Lam 2004).
  • Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis violacea)
    The male variable dancer also has sky-blue 9th and 10th abdominal segments and purple on the thorax, however the eyes and abdomen of this distinctive species are also purple.
  • Dusky Dancer (Argia translata) (guide)
    The male dusky dancer is similar in size to the blue-tipped dancer and also has a dark thorax and abdomen, however the dusky dancer has thin blue rings around nearly all of the abdominal segments including the 9th and 10th. The eyes of this species are violet and it lacks purple stripes on the thorax. The female dusky dancer has eyespots, a pale ovipositor, and a long pale area dividing the black shoulder stripe (Lam 2004).

Blue-tipped Dancer Images


Blue-tipped Dancer
Argia tibialis (Rambur, 1842)

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Arthropoda (Mandibulates)
      • Class Insecta (Insects)
        • Order Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies)
          • Family Coenagrionidae (Pond Damsels)

Additional Resources


Donnelly, T. W. 1992. The odonata of New York State. Bulletin of American Odonatology. 1(1):1-27.

Dunkle, S.W. 1990. Damselflies of Florida, Bermuda and the Bahamas. Scientific Publishers, Gainesville, FL. 148 pp.

Lam, E. 2004. Damselflies of the northeast: A guide to the species of eastern Canada and the northeastern United States. Biodiversity Books, Forest Hills, New York. 96 pp.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2006. Biotics Database. Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Westfall, M.J. Jr. and M.L. May. 1996. Damselflies of North America. Scientific Publishers. Gainesville, FL. 649 pp.


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: November 26, 2019

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Argia tibialis. Available from: Accessed May 26, 2024.