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Damselflies! Click to view slideshow:

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Dragonflies and damselflies are closely related, both are part of the insect order Odonata. However, they are not the same! Odonata includes about 5,900 species of which about 3,000 are dragonflies (suborder Epiprocta, infraorder Anisoptera) and about 2,600 are damselflies (suborder Zygoptera).

Here are five differences to look for:

★ Size: Dragonflies are generally much larger. The most common dragonfly in The Netherlands (Ruddy darter) is 3.4-3.6 cm long and has a wingspan of 6 cm. The most common damselfly in The Netherlands (Blue-tailed damselfly) is 2.7-3.5 cm long and has a wingspan of 3.5 cm.

→ Fun fact: the largest extinct dragonfly had a wing span of 70-75 cm (roughly 30 inches)!

★ Eyes: Dragonflies have much larger eyes than damselflies, their eyes take up most of the head and they are wrapped around from the side to the front of the face which kind of makes it look like dragonflies are wearing snow goggles. Damselflies also have large eyes, but the eyes are clearly separated and appear on each side of the head. →See picture below!

★ Body shape: Dragonflies have bulkier, stocky bodies that appear shorter and thicker. Damselflies have long and slender bodies.

★ Wing shape: Both dragonflies and damselflies have two sets of wrings, but the shapes are different. Dragonflies have hind wings that broaden at the base, which makes them larger than the front wings. Damselflies have wings that are the same size and shape for both sets, and they taper down as they join the body, thus becoming quite narrow as they connect.

★ Position of the wings when resting: Dragonflies hold their wings out perpendicular to their bodies when resting, so they look like small airplanes. Damselflies fold their wings up and hold them together across the top of their backs, from a distance they kind of look like a very thin safety match.

18 responses

  1. Beautiful shots, Camilla, including some wonderful close-ups. As is usually the case, depth of field was really shallow in some of the images and it was fun to examine each image to see how you focused the viewer’s attention with your careful choice of the point of maximum sharpness.

    July 29, 2018 at 6:27 PM

    • Thanks so much, Mike! 🙂 I struggled a bit taking these photos because I don’t have a macro lens anymore. Right now I’m debating which one to get so for now I’m just using an extra glass on my regular XF18-135 lens. It kind of works, but there’s definitely room for improvement!

      July 29, 2018 at 7:01 PM

  2. The slide show wouldn’t open for me.

    July 29, 2018 at 6:28 PM

    • Maybe you need to update your Java version? I tested on a laptop and my cell phone, it works on both.

      July 29, 2018 at 7:03 PM

  3. You’ve been busy with the Blue-Tails, very nice indeed.

    July 29, 2018 at 7:11 PM

    • Thanks so much, Brian! 🙂 They were very cooperative.

      July 29, 2018 at 7:49 PM

  4. Great pics, Calee! 🙂 There are tons of damselflies around our area this year; however, dragonflies are scarce and real rarities this year.

    July 29, 2018 at 7:44 PM

    • Thanks so much, Tom! 🙂 I’ve also seen more damselflies this year, and less dragonflies although they’re not scarce at all.

      July 29, 2018 at 7:51 PM

  5. Awesome comparison info, I learned a lot! Thank you for sharing!

    July 30, 2018 at 5:06 PM

    • Thanks so much, Donna! 🙂 I’m glad you found it interesting.

      July 30, 2018 at 6:56 PM

  6. That’s the best description of the differences between dragonflies and damselflies I could ever want. And the photos are beautiful!

    July 30, 2018 at 10:10 PM

  7. Fabulous images, Camilla!

    August 1, 2018 at 9:45 PM

  8. Brilliant! And a great slideshow as well. Great photography, lovely sharp images and super lighting! 😎

    August 12, 2018 at 7:01 PM

  9. Such beautiful shots of perhaps the most intriguing of all insects 🙂

    August 25, 2018 at 9:49 PM

    • Thanks so much, Randall! 🙂 Damselflies are indeed intriguing!

      August 26, 2018 at 2:03 PM

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