Much like the dragonflies shared in last week’s feature, damselflies are a voracious insect group in all life stages. Smaller, more delicate in size and appearance than the larger bodied dragonflies, damselflies are also beautiful and varied insects boasting colorful bodies and wings.
With nearly 50 species and mind-boggling variations in some of those, identification of damselflies could be a hobby for those looking to sharpen their minds. Much like our birds, males and females appear differently and have coloration variations during their life stages.
Damselflies also have large orbs for eyes, but they are quite different from those of the dragonfly. Instead of two large eyes right next to each other, damselfly eyeballs are separated on either side of their head. This arrangement affords them excellent binocular vision and aids in capturing a meal while staying safe from becoming one.
Some of the most beautiful are the ebony jewelwings of the spreadwing damselflies. With bodies of metallic-like colorations of brilliant green and blues below wings darkened black, when the sunlight hits, they are gorgeous to behold. Even better, those black wings make it more obvious whether you are viewing the male or in cases where you see a white spot – the female. The stigmata or marking of white is only found on the females of this species.
The delicate slender bodies and silent, stealthy flight of these jewel-like insects could easily be the inspiration for tales of fairies and sprites. Conversely while in juvenile form their posterior tracheal gills – they breathe through their butt – and prehensile labium or “fold away” jaws – seem more like horror movie fare.
Dragonflies hold their wings spread out flat like an airplane, but pond and broad-winged damselflies hold their wings folded upright, erect over their backs. Spreadwings hold theirs just slightly open as you might do with your arms if giving a hug. Even so, it is easy to discern then from dragonflies based solely on their slender, needle-thin bodies.
Look for them hovering around slow moving, shallow waterways and seasonal ponds. These are those flooded areas which appear cyclically during our rainy season and then dry up over the winter months. As they are only wet for a season, predatory fish and other aquatic insects are not present, allowing the damselfly and many other creatures to complete their life cycle safe from predators.