Nature – Dragonflies and Damselflies

Dragonflies at Lake Apopka, Florida with Miss Birdie

As I have been taking nature walks this summer I have noticed many beautiful different colored dragonflies and in some places dainty damselflies.  

I started wondering how dragonflies and damselflies are different and I wanted to know more about them.

This week lets explore the magical world of dragonflies and damselflies!

Have Fun! — Miss Birdie

Fun Facts about Dragonflies

Four-Spotted Pennant Dragonfly
  • Dragonflies are a type of insect with a wingspan of 2 to 5 inches, but did you know that fossils of dragonflies have been found with wingspans of over 2 feet!
  • Dragonflies undergo incomplete metamorphosis- the stages, which are Egg, Larva, and Adult.
  • These nymphs can stay in the water from 1 to 5 years!
  • Dragonfly nymphs start hunting as soon as they hatch from the egg and they will eat anything smaller than themselves including lots of mosquitoes, fish, and tadpoles.
  • Adult dragonflies are very accurate predators and catch their prey 90% of the time compared to lions, which are successful only 20% of the time!
  • Having their muscles attached to their wings helps them to fly faster than other insects. They can fly forward and backward.
  • They can hover and pivot in place too!
Scarlet Skimmer Dragonfly
  • They have very sharp mandibles to rip apart their prey, but most are not strong enough to break a person’s skin.
  • Only a few large dragonflies can bite people, but they only do so as a defense.
  • Some dragonflies can reach a top speed of 18 miles per hour!
  • One kind of dragonfly called the Globe Skimmer flies across the ocean traveling 11,000 miles, which it the longest migration of any insect!
  • Their eyes are made of 30,000 facets, which give them nearly 360-degree vision.
  • Some dragonflies lay their eggs in salt water.
  • Dragonflies only eat prey that they catch in flight.
Halloween Pennant Dragonfly
  • Dragonflies are very important in controlling insects particularly mosquitoes and biting flies.
  • There are more than 5,000 known species of dragonflies.
  • Sometimes dragonflies gather together in a large group called a swarm.
  • A static swarm is when they a feeding together.
  • A migratory swarm is when they are moving from place to place.

Fun Facts about Damselflies

Jewel Wings Damselfly
  • Damselflies are closely related to dragonflies, but they have much smaller eyes and narrower bodies.
  • Damselflies fold their wings up when resting while dragonflies hold their wings perpendicular to their bodies like an airplane.
  • Damselflies have small, sharp looking bristles on their legs to help them to trap prey in the air.
  • Damselflies can be found in just about every color of the rainbow.
  • Damselflies have a long abdomen with 10 segments.
  • Damselflies are smaller, weaker fliers than dragonflies.
  • Damselflies can zoom sideways and backwards to catch prey.
  • Their wings are thin and transparent.
  • Damselflies’ long bodies help them to balance in flight.
  • While dragonflies will not hunt in cold temperatures, damselflies will.
  • Damselflies have a large space between their eyes.
  • Damselflies and dragonflies often perch on a plant or similar objects waiting for prey to fly by.

Observing Dragon and Damsel Flies

Note: if you have started keeping a nature journal the following activities would be ideal for recording in your journal.

Visit a local pond, lake or wetland.

Remember to follow your state and local guidelines for social distancing and staying safe.

Observing dragonflies and damselflies does not require any special equipment. Sitting quietly near water can give you the opportunity to watch these fascinating creatures.

Take time to watch the interactions of the dragonflies and damselflies.

 Please note that you might not find both dragonflies and damselflies at the same location.

How many different colors of dragonflies and damselflies can you find? What is your favorite color?

Watch the dragonflies and damselflies, can you find one hunting? Can you tell what they caught?

Observe the landing spots for the dragonflies and damselflies. Do you notice a favorite plant or do they visit different ones?

Watch the flight of the dragonflies. Can you find one going backwards?

How about hovering or pivoting?

If you are able to observe at the same location on a different day or time notice how the behavior of the dragonflies and damselflies change with more clouds or wind.

Notice other insects, birds, reptiles and other animals. Make sketches or take photos of the ones that interest you. If you enjoy art when you get home you can create a drawing or painting of the pond, lake or wetland and all the interesting things that you found there.

If you have a net and a bucket or jar you can go to the edge of the water and make 3 or 4 sweeps with your net. Place the creatures that you find in your bucket or jar. Did you find any dragonfly or damselfly larva?

If your family has a smart phone a free App that can help you identify what you find in nature is called SeekIt will be useful to help you identify what you may have found in the water or even dragonflies or damselflies that you are able to photograph.

Be sure to release any creatures that you have in your bucket or jar after you have observed them.