|Female common bluetail damselfly (Ischnura heterosticta)|
Damselflies (suborder Zygoptera) are insects in the order Odonata. Damselflies are similar to dragonflies, but the adults can be distinguished by the fact that the wings of most damselflies are held along, and parallel to, the body when at rest. Furthermore, the hindwing of the damselfly is essentially similar to the forewing, while the hindwing of the dragonfly broadens near the base. Damselflies are also usually smaller than dragonflies and weaker fliers in comparison, and their eyes are separated.
Damselflies undergo incomplete metamorphosis, with an aquatic nymph stage. The female lays the eggs in water, sometimes in underwater vegetation, or high in trees in bromeliads and other water-filled cavities. Nymphs are carnivorous, feeding on daphnia, mosquito larvae, and various other small aquatic organisms, using extendable jaws similar to those of the dragonfly nymph. The gills of damselfly nymphs are large and external, resembling three fins at the end of the abdomen. After moulting several times, the winged adult emerges and eats flies, mosquitoes, and other small insects. Some of the larger tropical species are known to feed on spiders, hovering near the web and plucking the spider from its nest.
Damselflies rest their wings together, on both sides of their bodies. Dragonflies, however, have wings that are spread apart, even while resting.
View of the underside of the head of a coenagrionid nymph, showing the labium, an ingenious mechanism that can extend forward by two hinges, and is used to catch prey from a distance
Damselfly grooming itself
- Media related to Zygoptera at Wikimedia Commons
- Data related to Zygoptera at Wikispecies
- dragonflies and damselflies on the UF / IFAS Featured Creatures Web site