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Dragonflies & Damselflies

Male broad-bodied chaser cdt Ralph Todd.png

Image credit: Ralph Todd

Dragonflies and Damselflies are found near freshwater ponds, lakes streams and rivers.

Male broad-bodied chaser cdt Ralph Todd.png
Female banded demoiselle cdt Ralph Todd.png

Male Broad-bodied Chaser, a Dragonfly at Foots Cray Meadows (Left). 
Female Banded Demoiselle (right) Credit: Ralph Todd

Dragonflies are older than dinosaurs. Not only are they pre-historic, but they have also been around for 300 million years, around 60 million years ahead of dinosaurs. Predecessors of the modern-day dragonfly were not only older but also gigantic. Scientists have found fossils with a 30-inch (over 75cm) wingspan!

Like many insects’ dragonflies start their lives living underwater as eggs. Once they hatch, they spend 2-5 years underwater, during which time they shed their skin up to 12 times. During this larval stage they feed on tadpoles, small fishes and mosquitos.

An average adult dragonfly has a lifespan of 6 months to a year and can fly up to a speed of 30 miles per hour. Due to their spectacular flying ability and excellent eyesight, they are one of nature’s most successful hunters, with a success rate of 95%. Pretty good when compared to a lion and a shark who have a success rate of 25% and 50 % respectively.

Dragonflies have a voracious appetite; they will eat any flying insect they can catch, and a single adult can consume up to 100 mosquitos a day.


There are 57 species of dragonflies and damselflies regularly found in the UK of which eighteen species of have been identified on Foots Cray Meadows, some are resident, others are regular migrant species. These include southern hawker, brown hawker, migrant hawker, Emperor dragonfly, broad-bodied chaser, four-spotted chaser, black-tailed, skimmer, ruddy darter, common darter, banded demoiselle, azure blue damselfly, common blue damselfly, red-eyed damselfly, large red damselfly, blue-tailed damselfly, willow emerald damselfly and emerald damselfly.


Check out the chart below for the main differences between Dragonflies and Damselflies:

Strong, fast, agile
Slower and not as strong as dragonflies
Body type
Chunky body
Long, thin body, like a twig
Large eyes which are close together
Slightly smaller eyes than dragonflies and have a gap between them
Wings at rest
Wings held open when they are resting
Wings closed and rest against their bodies when resting
Wing shape
Hind wings much broader than fore wings and aren’t as tapered as damselflies
Both sets of wings are the same size and shape They’re tapered where they meet the body
More than 2 inches
Between 1.5-2 inches

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