• dragonflies guide
  • dragonflies guide
  • dragonflies guide

Dragonflies guide

The FSC Dragonflies guide features adults of 28 dragonfly species and 16 damselfly species.

Enabling speedy dragonfly identification in the field, it features beautiful life-size colour paintings shown by Richard Askew. Different forms for males and females feature where appropriate.

Dragonflies and damselflies adults fly during the day, especially in the summer sunshine. Most species fly near freshwater, like rivers, ponds and lakes, as their larval stage is aquatic. Both adults and larvae are carnivorous. With practice most species can be recognised in the field, even when in flight. Since blue and black damselflies are sometimes a little tricky, we include a comparison of the abdomens of the six similar species.

Adult dragonflies are large insects. The biggest British species has a wing span of about 10 cm, and a body length of about 8 cm. They have huge eyes, occupying most of the globular head. In contrast damselflies are much smaller and have a relatively weak fluttering flight. They settle more frequently than dragonflies. Usually they hold their wings shut over the top of the body. The eyes of damselflies are also smaller and have a different position on the head. All dragonflies and damselflies have long bodies, often with bright colours, plus two pairs of densely veined wings.

Together dragonflies and damselflies belong to the order of insects called Odonata (meaning ‘toother jaw’). The Odonata are a remarkable group, with about 5500 species in the world today. Although still common and widespread today, they were among the first flying insects to appear on earth. Indeed, fossils of dragonfly-like insects occur in Carboniferous rocks over 350 million years old.

The Dragonflies guide was co-created with the Natural History Museum.