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.