Large Red Damselfly, Go Be Wild! Barbara Copperthwaite




Dragonflies and Damselflies have remained virtually the same since their ancestors first appeared around 350 million years ago.

The main differences between Damsels and Dragons are:

  • Damsels are much smaller than Dragons.

  • They fold their wings back against their body when resting, while Dragons always hold their wings perpendicular to their bodies.

  • Flight pattern is a giveaway - Damsels have a weaker flight, and tend to land more.

  • They have much smaller eyes, which are on the side of their head. Dragons have huge eyes.

  • Damsels tend to stay around the water where they live, Dragons will venture further afield to hunt.

  • Life-span is shorter (once adult, this is not taking into account time spent as a nymph). They live, on average, for two to four weeks as adults, while Dragons live for up to two months.

  • Damsels tend to (but not exclusively) stay closer to the edge of ponds and streams, flying near the vegetation.


Look closely at damselflies and the first thing yo'll notice is how huge the eyes are. They have thousands of multi-angled units called ommatidia, and those under the eyes are better at detecting form than movement. For this reason a damselfly will usually take its prey from below.

Its wings are equally remarkable. Although a damselfly's flight is weaker than a dragonfly's, and its long wings may seem flimsy, appearances can be deceptive. They have a lattice of rubbery veins containing resilin, a protein that allows them to flex in flight, allowing it to manoeuvre in the blink of an eye.

Large Red Damselfly, pictured above

Azure Blue Damselfly, pictured left

Beautiful Demoiselle, by Barbara Copperthwaite, Go Be Wild

Beautiful Demoiselle, pictured below.

   The aptly-named Beautiful Demoiselle likes medium- to fast-running streams and rivers. It is one of the few damselflies to have a courtship, with the male displaying its wings to the female by flying in front of her.

   This is a male, with irridescent, cobalt blue body and inky blue, irridescent wings which flash to cobalt blue when hit by sunlight. The female is green.

Beautiful Demoiselle, Barbara Copperthwaite, Go Be Wild