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Dragonflies and Damselflies

Dragonflies and damselflies are closely related insects with the same basic body shape. This means that they can sometimes be difficult to tell apart. There certainly are differences between the two, though. Both dragonflies and damselflies are really impressive insects. They have 2 pairs of wings that are extremely stiff. Other insects can fold their wings down or hide one pair under a tough, protective case. Dragonflies and damselflies can’t do this, their wings are always out in the open and rigidly stuck out. They are both voracious predators. When flying around, they hold their 6 legs in a basket shape to catch other flying insects as they zoom around. This means they have to fly faster than other insects, and they do! They also have huge compound eyes so they can see all around them and not not miss an opportunity to find something to eat. They also eat on the wing. Once they land, dragonflies and damselflies can hardly walk if at all! The sky is the place for them. Dragonflies and damselflies are efficient, aerial predators when they are adults, but they are both aquatic predators when they are young. At this point they are known as naiads and can be found in clean ponds and streams. They will eat other small, young insects but some can get so big they can even catch small fish and tadpoles! “Naiad” is the name given to all aquatic nymphs, and nymphs are the young of insects that go through incomplete metamorphosis. This means that they never pupate like butterflies have to. It also means that they look at least a little like the adults they will become, unlike caterpillars, maggots and grubs. When ready, a naiad will walk up a stem and out of the water and an adult dragonfly or damselfly will emerge from its skin right there and then. After the wings expand, it flies off to begin the next phase of its life.

There are many differences between dragonflies and damselflies. When you think of the word “dragon”, you probably think of a huge, powerful, fire breathing reptile. Dragonflies aren’t like that! They are extremely powerful in flight, though. Some of the fastest and furthest flying insects in the world are dragonflies. They are also quite stocky compared to damselflies, with an abdomen that can be fairly stout, robust and nowhere near as long or thin. Dragonflies also have eyes that are so big that they meet in the middle at the top of the head. When they aren’t flying at incredible speed they might rest on a plant stem. You will then be able to see that dragonflies leave their wings spread flat out or sometimes a little down or forward. They can’t move their wings far above their body. A damsel is a young girl. In myths and old stories she is often saved from a dragon by a knight in shining armour. Dragonflies and damselflies don’t have a relationship quite like that, but damselflies to look a lot more dainty and fragile than the dragonflies. They are much weaker in flight, without the speed and strength of dragonflies. Damselflies also have an abdomen that is very long and thin, it looks much more delicate. While they have very big eyes, those of the damselfly are not so big that meet up in the middle. The head can often look a bit like a hammer or a rounded mallet. At rest, most of them hold their wings right up above their body and together like a butterfly. All in all, you can definitely see the difference if you get a close look at a dragonfly or damselfly that is resting somewhere. If it’s flying, you can still see the difference but it might take a bit more experience so you can make comparisons.

Ruddy Darter Dragonfly








The ruddy darter dragonfly has a wingspan of up to 6 cm. The head, thorax and abdomen of the male are a vivid red colour and the slightly smaller female is a golden-yellow colour with black markings. The all-black legs of the ruddy darter distinguish it from other very similar common darters. The ruddy darter dragonfly can be found between the months of July and November. Mating takes place on the wing, with the coupled pair performing a dipping flight over the water. The female jettisons her fertilised eggs on the surface of the water by alternating movements of the abdomen. The male will hover nearby during this period and protect the female by driving off any approaching males. The larvae spend the year beneath the surface of the water before emerging and pupating into adults. The ruddy darter dragonfly is to be found in temperate regions throughout Europe, as Far East as Siberia and as far south as the northern Sahara. Its conservation status is regarded as secure, and indeed numbers seem to be increasing in some locations such as central England. It tends to prefer quiet bodies of water that feature semiaquatic vegetation such as rushes and reeds.


Common Blue-Tail Damselfly

The Dragonfly and Damselfly are insects, they are not flies. They can hover in mid air and eat other insects by catching them as they fly. There are 3 parts to their bodies: head, thorax and long thin abdomens. They have 3 pairs of jointed legs and 2 pairs of transparent wings. What are the differences between them? Dragonflies and damselflies are often mistaken for each other because they appear to be quite similar. However, when resting, damselflies hold their wings together above the body, while dragonflies hold their wings flat. The back wing of the dragonfly is broader near where it joins onto the body. Damselfly eyes are further apart than those of a dragonfly. Damselflies are usually smaller than dragonflies. Dragonflies can fly at 40 kilometers per hour whereas Damselflies fly more slowly.

Banded Demoiselle

Banded Demoiselle

These beautiful Demoiselles are the largest of our native damselflies. The males have a dark blue-green metallic body and dark blue coloured patches on their wings. It is a large damselfly with a total length of up to 48 mm (1.9 in) and a wing length of up to 36 mm (1.4 in). The female has translucent, pale green iridescent wings with a white patch near the tip and a metallic green body. She can lay up to 10 eggs per minute for 45 minutes (450). They lay in a wide variety of emergent or floating plants, sometimes even submerging to do so. Males are usually territorial, but large numbers can sometimes be found in lush bank-side plants and on floating objects. They are easily identified because they resemble butterflies with their gentle, fluttering flight. They court females by opening their wings and performing an aerial dance. You can usually find the Banded Demoiselle around slow moving areas of water and they are very sensitive to pollution so their presence is often an indicator of good water quality. They are on the wing throughout June and July and often into August and it is when they fly in the sunshine that you can see the stunning blue shimmer. The Banded Demoiselle is a Eurasian species and is present throughout Eurasia from the Atlantic coast to the northwest of China. They are also found throughout the UK and Ireland.


Dragonfly (34 Photos Stacked)






A Dragonfly is a large insect and it is characterised by its large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings and an elongated body. Dragonflies possess six legs (like any other insect), but most of them cannot walk well. Dragonflies are among the fastest flying insects in the world. In general, large dragonflies like the hawkers have a maximum speed of 22–34 mph with average cruising speed of about 10 mph. Dragonflies are major predators that eat mosquitoes, and other small insects like flies, bees, ants and wasps and sometimes butterflies. They are usually found around marshes, lakes, ponds, streams, and wetlands because their larvae are aquatic. About 5,900 different species of dragonflies are known in the world today.

Common Darter Dragonfly

Common Darter Dragonfly

The Common Darter Dragonfly can be seen on the wing all year round in southern Europe but in northern regions they occur from June to November. This small Dragonfly is seen in a wide variety of habitats, including lakes, ponds, canals and slow-flowing rivers. They are ambush predators, waiting on a prominent perch – such as a leaf or the top of a gate, until prey fly past, whereupon they will fly after it. They are territorial on breeding waters, often attempting to chase much bigger Dragonflies away. This habit of repeatedly returning to a sunny spot allows you to easily predict where they are going to land, which is why it is one of the easiest dragonflies to photograph. In suitable hunting areas away from water, however, they are not territorial: large numbers may assemble – groups of several hundred in a single field have been recorded – and lines of insects can be seen along the top of field gates. Eggs are not laid, but broadcast from the air, the male Common Darter Dragonfly holds the female in tandem and swings her down and forward over water at a height of around 40 cm. At the furthest point of the arc the female releases some of her eggs to fall on the water.