Insects
About the Damselfly
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Order Odonata, Suborder Zygoptera, Family Coenagrionidae

The damselfly (or just damsel) is also known as a narrow wing or a bog dancer.

Damselfy What does the damselfly look like?

Damselflies look a lot like small dragonflies. In fact, they are often mistaken for dragonflies. But there are a couple of important differences. If you see a "dragonfly" with its four wings folded over its back, it's not a dragonfly - only damselflies can fold their wings like that. In general, although they are quite a large insect, the damselflies have much smaller, narrower bodies and finer features than the dragonflies, which are the largest insects in British Columbia.

Damselflies are seen much more often than dragonflies. The male of most common variety in British Columbia is a bright blue colour; the female is gray.

The damselfly nymph has a large head with bulbous eyes on a very thin, stick-like body. The abdomen has three feathery tails, which are actually gills.

Where does the damselfly live?

Damselfly nymphs mostly stick to still, shallow water in ponds and marshes and at the edges of lakes. They sometimes live in deeper water, or running water, but in much smaller numbers. Once they mature and take flight, they fly all over, but generally stay close to bodies of water. There are 166 species of damselfly found in North America alone, with hundreds more found around the world.

What is the life cycle of the damselfly?

Damselflies complete a life cycle every one or two years. Click here to see the life cycle of a damselfly. Adults mate over shallow water, sometimes while flying, sometimes clinging to weeds on or near the shore. After mating, the female lays her eggs just under the water on some vegetation.

Damselflies do not go through larval and pupal stages of life. They begin as a small, predacious nymph that lives in the water, growing through several molts. Eventually the nymph crawls onto some shoreline vegetation and molts one last time, turning into an adult at last.

The damselfly nymph is more important to fish than the adult, since it lives in the water and is bite-sized. (The adult is a large, fast flyer - much harder for fish to catch.) Some damselfly nymphs do not mature in time for the winter, and so they migrate to deeper water and hibernate. In the spring, they migrate back to the shallows. A great many of them are eaten during these migrations.



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