Insect Identification
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Insect Identification

Dragonflies and Damselflies

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 7/28/2015

You know summertime has arrived when the Dragonfly and Damselfly make their appearance.


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.

Black Saddlebags Skimmer
The Black Saddlebags is a type of dragonfly known as a skimmer. Their bodies are shorter than their wingspan. In line with ...
Blue Dasher
Blue Dashers are one of the most abundant dragonflies in the U.S. and can be found near slow moving water sources, marshes an...
Blue-Eyed Darner
Thanks to their large size and beautiful blue eyes, the Blue-Eyed Darner is easy to spot and identify. The blue and black co...
Blue-fronted Dancer
Dancers flight patterns are not straight-lined; this pond damsel appears to dance, or bounce, along its way. Damselflies are ...
Common Green Darner
Common Green Darners are beautiful dragonflies with transparent wings. They are large specimens that are common throughout No...
Common Sanddragon
The Common Sanddragon is a dragonfly that prefers moving water. They can be found by streams, creeks and small rivers, flying...
Common Whitetail Skimmer
This typical dragonfly hovers over standing or slow water (ponds, creeks, streams, marshes, lakes, etc.). Older males de...
Eastern Amberwing
This dragonfly stays low, close to the water's surface, as it flies, feeding on small insects. Males stake a claim on a shor...
Eastern Pondhawk
Pondhawks attack their insect prey with similar agility seen in their avian namesake. They are very good predators and can t...
Familiar Bluet
The Familiar Bluet is one of the brightest blue damselflies. This makes them easy to spot as they quickly dart from plant to ...
Giant Darner
The Giant Darner is hailed as the largest example of dragonfly found in the United States of America. This dragonfly can meas...
Great Blue Skimmer
The brightly colored bodies of the Great Blue Skimmer are characteristic of most of the dragonflies in the Libellulidae famil...
Halloween Pennant
Bright orange and black spotted wings make the Halloween Pennant an easy dragonfly to spot. The coloring is similar to butte...
Western Flying Adder
The Western Flying Adder is part of the very common summer flying insect generically grouped as "dragonflies". They appear qu...
Widow Skimmer
Widow Skimmers live near warm waters. The water source could be a pond, marsh, small lake or lagoon. Water is necessary for...
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