Dragonflies and Damselflies

Adult dragonflies and damselflies are to the aquatic insect world what butterflies are to terrestrial insects: big, showy, beautiful, and well-known cultural icons. As adults, members of the order Odonata can be intensely colorful, active, and often noisy. Sit by a healthy wetland long enough on a summer day, and there’s a good chance you’ll hear a midair battle raging between two fiercely territorial male dragonflies. If you’re very still, a dragonfly might even land on or near you while it devours an insect that fell prey to its speed and agility. In fact, dragonflies and damselflies are fierce predators as both adults and larvae. Immature odonates are also valuable indicators of water quality, although some nymphs can be very tolerant of habitat disturbance.

The Xerces Society uses immature dragonflies and damselflies, as well as other aquatic invertebrates, to develop a biological assessment tool for Pacific Northwest wetlands. Understanding the ability of a water body to support life, or its biological integrity, is a first step in providing protection for that habitat.

The Xerces Society also has reviewed the status of a number of Hawaiian damselflies that are at risk of extinction in the red list of aquatic invertebrates.

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Dragonflies & Damselflies

Carolina saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea carolina) by Dennis Paulson