Dragons and Damsels

00 dragonfly

This time of year makes me miss all of the colorful flowers and insect activity in my beautiful wildlife garden.  Butterflies are my first love, but dragonflies run a close second.  I don’t even have a water feature in my yard, but I always have plenty of dragonflies and damselflies hunting for prey in my garden.

1 dragonfly

These lovely creatures come in a range of colors, and I consider it an enjoyable challenge to photograph as many as I can.

2 dragonfly

One way you can tell the difference between  dragonflies and  damselflies is their body size – dragons being the larger of the two.

4 dragonfly

Another difference involves how they hold their wings.  Dragonflies usually hold theirs out to their sides like airplane wings.

5 dragonfly

The photo above shows a dragonfly freshly emerged from its nymph shell, which is still clinging to the leaf above.

6 dragonfly

They need some time to allow their new wings to dry, and this is an ideal opportunity to gently coax one to perch on your finger.

7 dragonfly

Another distinguishing feature of dragonflies is their enormous compound eyes that usually meet in the middle of their head.  Those big eyes give them a nearly 360 degree field of vision – no sneaking up on these guys.

Both dragonflies and damselflies go through a metamorphosis that includes an egg, aquatic nymph and flying adult.  The following photo shows a dragonfly nymph.  It is a predator that feeds on insects, small fish or tadpoles in the water.

8 dragonfly nymph


Damselflies are smaller and more delicate than their dragon cousins.  They also come in a beautiful range of colors.

10 damselfly

Damselflies have slender bodies and usually hold their wings folded over their back when they rest.  In the right light, their wings look like stained glass.

13 damselfly

14 damselfly


Damselflies are easy to approach right after sunrise, especially on cool mornings when there is dew clinging to everything.

16 damselfly

When damselflies mate they form what’s called a “wheel” formation.  I think it looks much more like a heart.  The male grasps the female behind her head and then she reaches up with her abdomen to receive his sperm.

18 damselflies

Notice how their compound eyes do not meet in the middle of their head.

19 damselfly

Damselfly nymphs are also aquatic predators.

20 damselfly nymph

Dragons and damsels only need bodies of still water during their egg and nymph stages.  As adults they spend their time flying around and catching insects to eat.  I look forward to seeing these pretty insects next year.

15 damselfly




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  1. says

    Beautiful! I enjoyed seeing your many pictures – you have some really great ones! – and relearning the difference between Dragons and Damsels, because I forget easily. I also have many in my garden without a water feature but I am very close to the St. Lawrence River. I especially enjoy watching the Dragons “hunt,” probably mosquitos, at dusk.

  2. Cora Howlett says

    Great pictures! This web site gives so much great info.and I love learning. Dragonflies have always been one of my favorites…as well as bees, butterflies, etc.

  3. says

    Nice pics. My pond provides for so many of these fascinating creatures. I used Odonatacentral.org, a great site to make up a local checklist for both dragons and damsels. From there it was easy to identify species. The fact sheets offer interesting details on the skimmers, pondhawks and other groups.
    loret recently posted..Elliot Before and After

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