Species Spotlight: Dragonflies & Damselflies

Species Spotlight: Dragonflies & Damselflies


Have you seen a skinny flying insect near water and wondered where it was a damselfly or a dragonfly? Ever wondered whether they were the same or different?

You’re in luck! We have both at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and after reading this blog, you’ll be a pro at identifying them.

For starters, dragonflies and damselflies are closely related yet different insects belonging to the same Order, Odonata. If that is too technical, just know there is a scientific classification that is home to many species of flying insects.

Dragonfly eyes are large and close together so they occupy most of the head. Damselflies have large eyes as well, but there is a noticeable gap between their eyes. Check out this visual comparison! In terms of physical size, dragonfly bodies are thicker and chunky with a length of roughly 2-inches (though they can be smaller). The damselfly is roughly 1-1.5 inches in length with an extremely thin, twig-like body.

Despite the differences, dragonflies and damselflies are very similar and not just in name. Both insects are commonly found near fresh water and begin their life cycle underwater. They mature from being aquatic nymphs without wings to being a land-dwelling adult with wings. Both are carnivorous and will consume various other insects, like mosquitoes and gnats. This helps to keep away insects that carry diseases!

Each adult dragonfly and damselfly has two (2) pairs of wings. Damselfly wings fold to be in line with their bodies when at rest. In comparison, dragonfly wings remain out and open when not in motion which is an easy way to distinguish them from damselflies. Both insects come in a variety of colors, from neon greens and blues to deeper shades of red or purple. They can also be seen in brown and black with hints of gray.

Congratulations! You are now more of an expert on dragonflies and damselflies than you were at the start of this blog. Look for our double-winged friends to be resting atop water lily pads or along the handrails at the visitor center. Be sure to point them out to family and friends during your next visit to the Gardens.

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