Damselfly Insects: Are They The Same Thing?
The term “damsel” refers to any female animal or person in distress. In some cultures, it’s used as a pejorative term for females. However, in other cultures, such as those found in Europe and North America, the word is often used with respect and affection.
Insects are sometimes called “little girls,” but they’re not little at all! They have their own lives and personalities just like humans do.
So why does the term “damsel” always seem to refer to them?
It seems that when insects were first discovered, people thought that they were little girls because of their small size. Then, people realized that they weren’t little girls, so they started calling them “damsels.”
But wait a minute…are insects really little? What if I told you that insects actually grow up to be adults faster than most animals do?
You’d probably think I was making things up! But it’s true!
When you’re a kid, how long does it seem to take before you’re finally all grown up and independent?
It feels like it takes forever!
For humans, childhood goes on for at least a dozen years, right?
Well, it turns out that for some animals, adulthood comes a lot quicker. For instance, all it takes for a mayfly to go from larvae to corpse is about a month! If you think about it, that’s not very long at all!
Cockroaches are another example of animals that go from larvae to adulthood within a month or two.
And while we’re on the subject, how long does it really take for a human to become an adult?
For all intents and purposes, many people consider themselves to be adults before they even graduate high school! On that note, let’s go back to the real topic at hand: damsels in distress!
What is Damselfly Identification?
Damselflies are insects that, as the word suggests, look a lot like their dragonfly cousins. In fact, they’re often mistaken for dragonflies by the less informed masses. However, there are a few key differences between damselflies and dragonflies that you can look out for.
Damselflies have a long, thin body with two pairs of wings, which are usually a shinier green color. The wings of a damselfly are also more tightly spaced together than those of a dragonfly.
In addition, you’ll notice that damselflies hold their wings in a certain way. Specifically, they have a habit of holding their wings out to the side in such a way that their body forms an “X.” This body language is thought to be a territorial display, warning other damselflies to stay away.
What do they eat?
Damselflies eat a lot of different things, but mainly smaller insects and other invertebrates. They have to eat a large amount of food in order to survive, since they have high metabolisms and are prone to flight. As such, damselflies are usually found in areas that provide them with plenty of food.
These areas are typically moist, well-watered meadows and the like. Large swarms of damselflies are known to gather in these kinds of places.
After all, what better place is there to find a bunch of bugs to eat?
Also, thanks to the fact that they have two sets of wings, damselflies are able to catch prey while in flight, making it even easier for them to eat. This is in contrast to dragonflies, which rely more on ambush tactics and other methods to catch their prey.
Where do they live?
Damselflies are most commonly found in temperate zones all around the world. The most common place to find damselflies is in the Eastern Hemisphere of Earth, but they’re also common in places like North America as well.
Their preferred habitats are forests, meadows and other areas with a lot of water. Due to their love of water, damselflies often live near rivers, brooks, ponds and other bodies of water.
As such, they can often be found in wooded areas near such places. If you want to look for damselflies, your best bet is to look in the kinds of areas they prefer to live in.
How do damselflies mate?
The reproductive habits of damselflies are very similar to those of their dragonfly cousins.
First, males will do a wing beat dance in order to attract a mate. The female watches this dance and decides whether or not the male is attractive enough for her. If she’s feeling the guy, then they’ll do a kind of fly together known as tandem mating.
After mating, the female will lay her eggs somewhere safe. This “somewhere safe” can be anything from plant leaves to tree holes. The female will lay her eggs and then leave them after they’re laid.
Once the eggs hatch, they become what’s known as nymphs. These nymphs are similar to baby damselflies in appearance, but they lack the wings that make damselflies so unique.
The nymphs typically eat different kinds of smaller insects in order to survive. After a few weeks of consuming these insects and other small prey, the nymphs will go through a metamorphosis.
During this time they’ll add the familiar wings onto their bodies as well as grow to full size. At this point they’re full-grown damselflies, ready to live out the rest of their lives.
What do damselflies look like?
Damselflies are one of the most beautiful insects on planet Earth. This is thanks to their long, thin bodies and large, brightly-colored wings.
Damselflies tend to be green, blue or purple in color. Sometimes they can be more subdued with their coloring, like brown or tan in some cases. However, these duller colors are much less common.
The most noticeable feature on damselflies is their large wings. Across these wings are a series of thin veins, which gives them a “veined” appearance. The wings themselves are typically curved and semi-circular, making damselflies well adapted to flying in an open field.
As far as size is concerned, damselflies tend to be from half an inch to just over an inch in length. Smaller than most mosquitoes, but bigger than most gnats.
Are damselflies poisonous?
The answer to this question is a bit complicated. There are several different types of damselflies in the world, and each one has a different level of toxicity to them.
Some types of damselflies have no venom at all. These damselflies rely on their bright colors to warn predators not to eat them. They’re often too small for predators to care anyway.
Other types of damselflies do have venom, but their venom isn’t very strong. It can at the very least cause a bit of pain in humans, but it isn’t enough to cause any serious injury or illness.
There are also some types of damselflies that have strong venom that can cause illness or even death. These types of damselflies live in Australia and Papua New Guinea. You probably don’t need to worry about these kinds being in North America.
Can you eat damselflies?
Damselflies are not typically consumed by humans due to their small size and bitter taste. Some cultures do eat them on rare occasions, but this isn’t common in the United States.
Sources & references used in this article:
The flight performance of a damselfly Ceriagrion melanurum Selys by M Sato, A Azuma – Journal of Experimental Biology, 1997 – jeb.biologists.org
The earliest damselfly-like insect and the origin of modern dragonflies (Insecta: Odonatoptera: Protozygoptera) by EA Jarzembowski, A Nel – Proceedings of the Geologists’ …, 2002 – bechly.lima-city.de
Resilin in dragonfly and damselfly wings and its implications for wing flexibility by S Donoughe, JD Crall, RA Merz… – Journal of …, 2011 – Wiley Online Library
Genomic Features of the Damselfly Calopteryx splendens Representing a Sister Clade to Most Insect Orders by P Ioannidis, FA Simao, RM Waterhouse… – Genome biology and …, 2017 – academic.oup.com
Multi-scale effects of farmland management on dragonfly and damselfly assemblages of farmland ponds by EM Raebel, T Merckx, RE Feber, P Riordan… – Agriculture, ecosystems …, 2012 – Elsevier
Burmaphlebia reifi gen. et sp. nov., the first anisozygopteran damsel-dragonfly (Odonata: Epiophlebioptera: Burmaphlebiidae fam. nov.) from Early … by G Bechly, G Poinar Jr – Historical Biology, 2013 – Taylor & Francis
Community and conservation ecology of dragonfly and damselfly adults in Mississippi wetlands by JT Bried – 2005 – search.proquest.com