|Order Odonata - Dragonflies and Damselflies |
The order Odonata is divided into two suborders: Zygoptera (damselflies) and Anisoptera (dragonflies).
Live dragonflies and damselflies photographed in the wild at North American locations.
The presence and abundance of dragonflies and damselflies may be taken as an indicator of ecosystem quality. Local populations can be strongly affected by any change in water flow, turbidity, or in aquatic or waterside vegetation. The greatest numbers of species are found at sites which offer a wide variety of microhabitats, prey, and clean water. Odonate nymphs are aquatic, and as such need unpolluted water.
Plains Clubtail Dragonfly - Gomphus externus
Ruby Meadowhawk Male
Ruby Meadowhawk Female
White Faced Meadowhawk
Eastern Pondhawk Female
White Faced Meadowhawk
Blue Dasher Female
Eastern Pondhawk Male
Odonates are completely harmless - they do not sting or bite. Indeed, they are beneficial in the same respect spiders and other predators are beneficial - they help keep the burgeoning insect population in check. Many of these species prey on each other; I often see dragonflies with damsels in their clutches. Dragonflies are among the most ancient of living creatures. Fossil records, clearly recognisable as the ancestors of our present day odonates, go back to Carboniferous times which means that the insects were flying more than 300 million years ago, predating dinosaurs by over 100 million years and birds by some 150 million.
Green Darner Female
Green Darner Male
Blue Dasher Male
Calico Pennant Dragonfly
|The raptorial front legs combined with some serious ripping mouthparts make these otherwise ethereal creatures fearsome predators. Sometimes they are precision flyers and make a clean, mid-air intercept, but I've seen them miss even slowly flying moths repeatedly as well. Often I've seen them pounce on resting or nectaring insects. |
Their large bulbous compound eyes provide a vision field of 300 degrees. This insect needs binocular vision to maintain their predatory flying capture ability.
"All Odonates have excellent vision. Each compound eye is comprised of several thousand elements known as facets or ommatidia. These ommatidia contain light sensitive opsin proteins, thereby functioning as the visual sensing element in the compound eye. But unlike humans, which only have 2 or 3, sometimes 4 opsin proteins, day-flying dragonfly species have four or five different opsins, allowing them to see colors that are beyond human visual capabilities, such as ultraviolet (UV) light."
Northern Bluet Damselfly
Eastern Forktail Damselfly
Eastern Forktail variation
1. Bruce Marlin, Bugguide.net, 'Chalk-fronted Corporal'
Order Odonata: dragonflies and damselflies date back 300 million years, to the Carboniferous Period of the Paleozoic Era. These colorful, enchanting insects are revered second only to the butterflies in the popular psyche. Explore detailed close-up photographs of live, adult dragonflies and damselflies photographed in the wild.
Insects | Odonata Index | Dragonflies | Damselflies | Bugs Index | Spiders