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Dragonfly or damselfly?

Dragonfly or damselfly?

Being the kind of person who would choose a house where 2/3 of the front yard was taken up by a pond, I am visited by both dragon flies and damsel flies. 

While the resident frogs take some of these colourful, predatory insects while they are still in the larval/nymph stage in the pond, I’ve been visited by plenty of both of these fascinating flying creatures over the past couple of weeks as they hover and rest among the sunny spots on the reeds.

All over Adelaide nature-lovers are reporting a bumper year for Odonata – a wet winter and spring followed by bursts of summer heat.  (Odonata is the order name for what we call dragon flies and damsel flies). 

But what is the difference between these two sleek but fierce-looking creatures? At first glance, they look very similar. A sleek looking head, with large eyes capped by small antennae; shiny, almost metallic looking body and filmy looking wings.

But take a closer look and the differences are easy to spot (even for someone like me who does not garden with a field guide nearby.)

dragonfly-2 Pic:S.Cook

Dragon fly

Damsel fly

  • Many have eyes close together at the top of the head
  • Slightly thicker body
  • Dissimilar wing pairs, hind wings broader at the base
  • At rest, wings held open, horizontally or downwards
  • Eyes are separated, appearing on the side of the head
  • Longer, more slender body
  • All wings similar shape
  • At rest, wings held closed, usually over the abdomen

How to attract them

If you’re hoping to attract these little beauties into your place you’ll need some sort of permanent water source (such as a pond) that contains food that the larvae can live on.

If you’re concerned about water and mosquitos, it may help to know that these guys and their larvae are mosquito-eating machines, with the flight skills to make them excellent predators. (Adult dragonflies will also cheerfully deal with white cabbage butterflies from your veggie patch as well as a range of other pest insects they gab mid-air.)

Keep in mind though, your outdoor bug zapper is more likely to catch these guys than mosquitos, so why not let these backyard buddies keep the mozzies down for you?

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