How to tell a dragonfly from a damselfly

Dragonflies and damselflies are closely related cousins in the Odonata family but it isn’t difficult to tell them apart.

Wait until they alight: damselflies perch with their wings closed, and dragonflies with their wings open.

Common blue damselfly male by Charles J Sharp (CC BY.SA 4.0)
Broad bodied chaser male by Charles J Sharp (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Dragonflies have short chunky bodies, while damselflies are long and slender

Both have very large eyes but a dragonfly’s eyes are close together, seeming to meet at the top of its head, whereas damselflies’ eyes are separated by a gap.

Dragonfly’s compound eye (CC0)
Large red damselfly by Charles J Sharp (CC BY-SA 4.0)

All Odonates have two pairs of wings but a damselfly’s wings are all the same size and shape whereas dragonflies have differently shaped fore and hind wings: their hind wings are much broader and taper towards the body.

Dragonflies identified in the reserve:
southern hawker
brown hawker
migrant hawker
emperor dragonfly
broad bodied chaser
scarce chaser
ruddy darter
common darter

Damselflies identified in the reserve:
banded demoiselle
beautiful demoiselle
azure damselfly
common blue damselfly
blue tailed damselfly
large red damselfly

Header image: female broad bodied chaser © Simon Knight


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