One of the most recognizable orders of insect is the Odonata which encompasses both Dragonflies and Damselflies. There are some 5,500 identified North American species in the order and over 450 of these are found throughout the United States and Canada alone. Dragonflies are the more common of the two and both share many of the same physical characteristics and behaviors.
Odonates are found near fresh water sources and are active on pleasant sunny days. Color patterns vary as do wing designs and lengths can run as long as 5 inches (as with the "Giant Darner"). Bulging eyes are set to the sides of the head and each contains thousands of honeycomb-shaped lenses providing excellent vision with moving targets. Six legs are utilized for grabbing pray or clasping onto reeds and plants. Wings are noticeably veined and appear as two pairs of straight appendages emanating from the spine.
When at rest, Dragonflies will generally lay their wing pairs flat while Damselflies will typically hold their more elegant tear drop-shaped wings close together and away or above the body. Odonates are quick fliers that can seem to hover at times and they will even mate in mid-air (the male and female flying about in tandem). A single female can lay one egg or several and these deposits are generally found in or near water sources. Life cycles of Odonates are variable - some completing them in a single month while others cover years.
There are a total of 15 North American Dragonflies and Damselflies in the Insect Identification database. Entries are listed below in alphabetical order.