Wisconsin Odonata Survey


Argia fumipennis violacea  (Burmeister, 1839)
Variable Dancer (Violet Dancer ssp.)

Coenagrionidae, Pond Damsel Family

The dancers (Argia species) are sometimes similar in appearance to the bluets (Enallagma species) and may require in-hand examinations to separate them. Dancers can always be identified by the long setae on the front of their tibiae, which are twice as long as the intervening spaces. In all other pond damsels, these setae are only about as long as the intervening spaces. The females generally are duller than males and more difficult to identify. The "bouncy" flight of the dancers also distinguishes them from the bluets.


Global: G5     Wisconsin: S4    

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Our only violet-colored damselfly, the length of the variable dancer varies from 1.1 to 1.3 inches for both genders. The male has a violet thorax with thin black shoulder stripes (forked) and pale sides. The abdomen is violet with black markings and blue tips. The eyes are dark with purple eyespots. The female has a light brown thorax with forked black stripes. The abdomen is brown with black spots and streaks on the sides. The eyes are brownish gray. The abdomen is pale dorsally, compared to other female dancers.

Description of Habitat/Range:

Ranging from central to eastern United States and southeastern Canada, this species can be found at a variety of habitats, most commonly at vegetated streams and small ponds. In Wisconsin, it is often common and widely distributed throughout the state.

Flight Season:

Late June to September in Wisconsin.

Shading illustrates monthly percentages of the total flight season records for the species. Each flight season record is a unique date/location/observer combination where one or more adult or an exuvia was recorded (excludes nymphs). The actual number of flight season records for each month is shown in parentheses.

Flight seasons begin earlier in the southern part of the state, often by a week or more. Also, flight charts may not be accurate for rare species because of few data available.
View user-submitted photos

(Click on photos to enlarge)
Photo of Male variable dancer
Male variable dancer. © Dan Jackson

Photo of Immature male variable dancer
Immature male variable dancer. © Dan Jackson

Photo of Close-up of male variable dancer thorax
Close-up of male variable dancer thorax. © Dan Jackson

Photo of Female variable dancer
Female variable dancer. © Dan Jackson

Photo of Immature female variable dancer
Immature female variable dancer. © Dan Jackson

Photo of Variable dancer pair in tandem
Variable dancer pair in tandem. © Dan Jackson

Photo of Variable dancer pair.  Endophytic oviposition
Variable dancer pair. Endophytic oviposition. © R. DuBois

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