Alphabetical Plant Listing


Order Odonata

Damselflies are insects that belong to the order Odonata, which also includes dragonflies. They play an important role in maintaining the balance of freshwater ecosystems and are also enjoyed by many people for their beauty and graceful aerial displays.

Where to find them

Damselflies can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They are most diverse in tropical regions, where they are abundant and play important roles in ecosystems, such as pollination, controlling insect populations, and serving as food for other organisms.

In temperate regions, damselflies are less abundant but still play important roles in freshwater ecosystems. Some species are also highly adapted to specific habitats, such as bogs or wetlands, and are considered indicators of ecosystem health.

North America is home to many damselfly species, including the Spreadwing, Bluet, and Amberwing damselflies. In Europe, damselflies such as the Azure Damselfly, the Common Blue Damselfly, and the Large Red Damselfly are widespread.

In Asia, species such as the Hawaiian Damselfly, the Yellow-tailed Damselfly, and the Gossamer-winged Damselfly are found.


Damselflies are typically smaller and more delicate than dragonflies, with a body length ranging from 1.2 to 1 inch (1 to 5 cm). They have a slender abdomen and thorax, with long and thin legs that are often used to grasp prey.

Damselflies have large, compound eyes that occupy most of the head, providing them with excellent vision and the ability to detect movement from a great distance. Their wings are thin and membranous, with a network of veins that help to support the wing and provide lift during flight.

Damselflies come in many colors, including bright greens, blues, yellows, and reds. The color patterns and markings on their bodies and wings are used for mating displays and territorial behavior.

Damselflies are found near water, as the larvae (nymphs) of most species live in aquatic habitats. They feed on small insects, spiders, and other invertebrates and play important roles in maintaining the balance of freshwater ecosystems.

Life Cycle

The life cycle of damselflies consists of four stages: egg, nymph, adult, and mating.

  1. Egg: The female damselfly lays eggs in aquatic habitats, such as streams, ponds, or marshes. The eggs are usually attached to underwater plants or other surfaces and can take several weeks to hatch into nymphs.

  2. Nymph: The nymph is the aquatic stage of the damselfly, and it resembles an adult in many ways but has gills for breathing underwater. Nymphs feed on small aquatic invertebrates, such as insects and crustaceans, and grow rapidly. They molt several times before reaching the final nymph stage, when they are ready to emerge as adults.

  3. Adult: The adult stage begins when the nymph crawls out of the water and sheds its nymphal skin to reveal the adult form. The adult damselfly has wings that are used for flight and reproduction. They feed on flying insects and mate in various positions, including tandem, in which the male grasps the female by the thorax and flies with her.

  4. Mating: After mating, the female deposits her eggs in aquatic habitats, and the cycle begins again. Some species of damselflies have a short lifespan as adults, lasting only a few weeks to a few months, while others can live for several months.

Why a Beneficial Insect?

Damselflies are beneficial insects for several reasons:

  1. Pest control: Damselflies feed on a variety of small insects and spiders, including mosquitoes, flies, and other pests, making them important natural control agents.

  2. Pollination: Damselflies, like many other insects, play a role in pollination by transferring pollen between flowers as they feed on nectar.

  3. Food source: Damselflies are an important food source for various animals, including birds, fish, and other insects.

  4. Indicators of ecosystem health: The presence of damselflies can be used to indicate the health of freshwater ecosystems. For example, a decline in damselfly populations can indicate pollution, habitat destruction, or other factors negatively impacting aquatic habitats.

  5. Biodiversity: Damselflies are important components of biodiversity, and their presence helps to maintain the balance of ecosystems. They are also appreciated by many people for their beauty and graceful aerial displays.

Attract this Beneficial Insect to your Garden

Here are some tips to attract damselflies to your garden:

  1. Provide a water source: Damselflies need a place to lay their eggs and drink, so provide a shallow, still water source like a pond, bird bath, or a small fountain.

  2. Offer hiding spots: Damselflies like to rest and hide in vegetation near their water source. So, provide shrubs, tall grasses, or other vegetation around your water source to attract them.

  3. Grow native plants: Damselflies are attracted to native plants, so consider planting wildflowers, grasses, and other native plants in your garden.

  4. Avoid using pesticides: Pesticides can be harmful to damselflies, so avoid using them in your garden. Instead, encourage natural predators like birds and ladybugs to control pests.

  5. Provide perches: Damselflies like to rest and sun themselves, so provide flat stones or other surfaces to perch on.

By following these tips, you can create a welcoming environment for damselflies in your garden and enjoy watching these beautiful insects as they flit about.

Guide Information

Keith Hider, Shutterstock

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

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