Damselflies! Click to view slideshow:
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.
The Azure damselfly (Coenagrion puella) is quite common here in The Netherlands, and always a pleasure to see!
At first glance it could be a bit tricky to distinguish the Azure from a Common blue (Enallagma cyathigerum) damselfly, but if you look at the antehumeral stripe (that’s the long blue section on the thorax), the Azure’s blue stripe is narrower than the black stripe beneath it, and there’s an extra black line, a “spur” extending from the wing base towards the legs. The Common blue’s antehumreral stripe is broader than the black stripe beneath it and there’s no “spur” on the thorax.
Another thing to look at is the second segment of the males’ abdomen (just behind the thorax): both are blue but the Azure has a black U-shape and the common blue has a black mushroom-shaped mark.
And now I need your help! Please take a look at the second photo below, it’s not a great shot but I hope someone can help me identify this little damselfly.. I’m doubting if it’s either a Variable damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum) or perhaps a female Azure in blue form. If you know which one it is, please leave a comment below!
Close-ups of a Blue-tailed damselfly, Ischnura elegans, a.k.a. Common Bluetail
Oh sigh, another damselfly.. Yes, yes, I know, but just one more! I’m simply not able to pass by such a beautiful, male Emerald damselfly (look at the shimmering blue pruinescence) and not take a picture.
Some fellow bloggers, who are very good photographers, have suggested that I should use flash to improve my pictures. Here’s me trying to follow good advice, and I’m pretty pleased with the outcome. Thanks!
f/5 – 1/60 – ISO 400 – 60 – with flash
I found a tree full of mating Emerald damselflies! I’ve never seen so many damselflies at the same time before. The first picture is my favorite, I’m happy both damselflies are reasonably sharp and I like the background colors. The second one is similar, but a different couple and different camera settings. The last picture is not very good, but I include it anyway to show you how “crowded” the tree was.
Top: f/4 – 1/500 – ISO 200 – 60
Middle: f/8 – 1/100 – ISO 200 – 60
Bottom: f/8 – 1/80 – ISO 400 – 60
An Emerald damselfly fell victim for a Cross spider.. Poor Emmy! He was quickly wrapped up in silk for a later snack.
f/4 – 1/125 – ISO 200 – 60
Chasing after butterflies can be a tiresome business sometimes. After a couple of hours with no good shots, I took a break and sat down. Then this little common bluetail joined me and posed nicely for several shots. So nice!
f/5.6 – 1/250 – ISO 200 – 60
A big fly lunch for a small damselfly…
f/8 – 1/60 – ISO 400- 60
I’m not 100% sure, but I think this little guy is a Willow Emerald damselfly. He kept posing patiently while I was fumbling with different camera settings. Isn’t he beautiful? His back sparkled like a rainbow and a golden treasure combined.
f/5.6 – 1/250 – ISO 200 – 60 (both pictures)
f/4.5 – 1/160 – ISO 200 – 60