Female common bluetail damselfly (Ischnura heterosticta)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Odonata
Suborder: Zygoptera
Selys, 1854

Calopterygidae – Demoiselles
Chlorocyphidae – Jewels
Coenagrionidae – Pond Damselflies
Dicteriadidae – Barelegs
Diphlebiidae – Azure Damselflies
Euphaeidae – Gossamerwings
Hemiphlebiidae – Reedlings
Isostictidae – Narrow-wings
Lestidae – Spreadwings
Megapodagrionidae – Flatwings
Perilestidae – Shortwings
Platycnemididae – White-legged Damselflies
Platystictidae – Forest Damselflies
Polythoridae – Bannerwings
Protoneuridae – Pinflies
Pseudostigmatidae – Forest Giants
Synlestidae – Sylphs

Damselflies (suborder Zygoptera) are insects in the order Odonata. Damselflies are similar to dragonflies, but the adults can be distinguished by the fact that the wings of most damselflies are held along, and parallel to, the body when at rest. Furthermore, the hindwing of the damselfly is essentially similar to the forewing, while the hindwing of the dragonfly broadens near the base. Damselflies are also usually smaller than dragonflies and weaker fliers in comparison, and their eyes are separated.


Zygoptera comes from the Greek zygo meaning joined or paired and ptera meaning wings. They have two pairs of similar wings, unlike the dragonflies (suborder Anisoptera), whose hind wings are broader than their forewings. Damselflies also can fold their wings up over their backs, and dragonflies cannot.


Damselflies undergo incomplete metamorphosis, with an aquatic nymph stage. The female lays eggs in water, sometimes in underwater vegetation, or high in trees in bromeliads and other water-filled cavities. Nymphs are carnivorous, feeding on daphnia, mosquito larvae, and various other small aquatic organisms, using extendable jaws similar to those of the dragonfly nymph. The gills of damselfly nymphs are large and external, resembling three fins at the end of the abdomen. After moulting several times, the winged adult emerges and eats flies, mosquitoes, and other small insects. Some of the larger tropical species are known to feed on spiders, hovering near the web and plucking the spider from its nest.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • damselfly — n. a slender nonstinging insect similar to but smaller than the dragonfly but having wings folded when at rest. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • damselfly — ► NOUN ▪ a slender insect related to the dragonflies …   English terms dictionary

  • damselfly — [dam′zəlflī΄] n. pl. damselflies any of a suborder (Zygoptera) of slow flying, usually brightly colored dragonflies with long wings held vertically when at rest …   English World dictionary

  • damselfly — /dam zeuhl fluy /, n., pl. damselflies. any of numerous slender, nonstinging insects of the order Odonata (suborder Zygoptera), distinguished from the dragonflies by having the wings folded back in line with the body when at rest. [1805 15;… …   Universalium

  • damselfly — noun Date: 1815 any of numerous odonate insects (suborder Zygoptera) distinguished from dragonflies by laterally projecting eyes and usually stalked wings folded above the body when at rest …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • damselfly — noun Any of various insects of the suborder Zygoptera that have long slender bodies, and are similar to dragonflies but having wings folded when at rest. Syn: darning needle, devil’s darning needle …   Wiktionary

  • damselfly — n. species of flying insect which resembles a dragonfly …   English contemporary dictionary

  • damselfly — noun (plural damselflies) a slender insect related to the dragonflies, typically resting with the wings folded back along the body. [Suborder Zygoptera: many species.] …   English new terms dictionary

  • damselfly — dam•sel•fly [[t]ˈdæm zəlˌflaɪ[/t]] n. pl. flies ent any of numerous slender, nonstinging insects of the order Odonata (suborder Zygoptera), distinguished from the dragonflies by having the wings folded back in line with the body when at rest •… …   From formal English to slang

  • damselfly — n. (pl. flies) any of various insects of the order Odonata, like a dragonfly but with its wings folded over the body when resting …   Useful english dictionary

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