Dragonflies and damselflies belong to an order of insect called Odonata. Dragonflies are in the suborder Anisoptera, the damsels in the suborder Zygoptera.
Dragonflies usually hold their wings out to their sides when at rest. They are typically larger and bulkier than damselfies. Dragons have large compound eyes which, in many species, cover most of the head. Some species eyes only just meet at the top of the head, but still cover a large portion of the head. Other species, like the clubtails, have compound eyes that do not quite meet at the top of the head but are still very large. The word Anisoptera means “unequal wings.” Dragonfly hindwings are much wider than their forewings.
Most species of damselfly hold their wings folded over their backs while at rest, the spread-winged damsels are the exception. They also have compound eyes but in all species the eyes are at the sides of their wide heads (like a hammerhead shark). The word Zygoptera means “equal winged.” The front and rear wings of damselflies are nearly the same in size and shape.
I’ve seen 38 species of odonata, or odes, here at the Museum. Here is a sampling of some of them. The photos are in no particular order starting with the damsels.
Most of the odes seen here at the Museum are generalists and can be seen at nearly every pond or lake in the state. The Mocha emerald and Taper-tailed darner are two of the exceptions. It’s curious that I’ve seen two individuals of each of those species, one live and one partially eaten dead individual of each.
Many species didn’t make the photo list here simply because I wasn’t able to get a shot of them. Some species don’t perch very often and when they do it’s in a location which may not be easily accessible. But enough excuses. I will keep trying.
If you were to walk down to the end of our 700 foot boardwalk, lean over the rail and peek down at water at the point where the smartweed grows, I can guarantee that you will see some of the species in the above photos. If, for some reason, you can’t locate any of the above mentioned odes, locate me and I’ll point them out to you.