1 minute read


Damselflies are the smaller and more delicate members of the insect order Odonata, which includes the dragonflies. The damselfly suborder Zygoptera is characterized by similar fore and hind wings, which are both narrow at the base. Most damselflies can be easily distinguished from their larger and heavier dragonfly relatives in the field by their fluttering flight, and when at rest by their holding their wings up vertically or in a V-position when at rest.

Damselflies are usually found sitting on overhanging branches or other objects near water. They feed on small flying insects such as mosquitoes and gnats, which they catch in flight.

Although most damselflies are small and very slender, many have brightly colored bodies. The males are usually more colorful than the females, and often have spots or markings of vivid blue, green, or yellow.

Damselflies have a worldwide distribution. One of the larger and more conspicuous species in North America, found on shaded bushes overhanging small streams, is the black-winged damselfly (Calopterix maculata). The male of this species has all-black wings and a metallic-green body, whereas the female has gray wings with a small white dot (stigma) near the tip.

Damselflies mate on the wing in the same unusual fashion as dragonflies, and lay their eggs in the water. The eggs hatch into wingless larvae, called naiads, that remain on the bottom of the pond or stream. The damselflies larvae feed on smaller insect larvae and other aquatic animals. Damselfly larvae resemble dragonfly larvae except for the three leaf-like gills at the end of the body.

These beautiful, delicate animals neither sting nor bite. Indeed, damselflies help to control the disease-carrying mosquitoes and biting midges.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Cyanohydrins to Departments of philosophy: