Phylum Arthropoda > Subphylum Hexapoda > Class Insecta > Subclass Pterygota (winged insects) > Infraclass Paleoptera (?paraphyletic) > Order Odonata . . .

1. > Suborder Epiprocta (dragonflies) > Infraorder Anisoptera (true dragonflies)

2. > Suborder Zygoptera (damselflies)


Dragonflies tend to be larger, more robust and stronger fliers than the more delicate damselflies. At rest dragonflies spread their wings out, whereas most damselflies fold their wings back over the abdomen. The eyes of dragonflies occupy much of their head, whereas typically there is a gap between damselflies' eyes. In our area damselflies seem to be active earlier in the year than dragonflies, which peak in numbers in August.


Family Aeshnidae -- Hawkers

This family, known as darners in North America, includes the largest and fastest flying dragonflies alive today.


Southern Hawker, Aeshna cyanaea

This Southern Hawker was photographed in the wood behind the house at the height of dragonfly season -- mid-August 2006. Is it feeding on nectar from the heather flowers? . . I don't know. I was concentrating on mastering my new camera, which allowed me to spot focus on the dragonfly's thorax from 8-10 ft away.

Migrant Hawker, Aeshna mixta

This specimen is a male on basis of the solid blue band on its thorax (visible in left pic). In the female the band is divided into two blobs and the pale "T" marking just behind the back pair of wings extends down between the blobs.

He was one of a fleet of dragonflies flying over the lawn on 15 August 2007. Some years the swarms are amazing, with well over 100 of them, mainly darters, plying the air for insects.

Family Libellulidae > Genus Sympetrum -- Darters

Skimmers, or perchers, and darters form the largest dragonfly family, Libellulidae. According to Wikipedia, Sympetrum is a genus of small to medium sized skimmer dragonflies, known as darters in the UK and as meadowhawks in the United States. There are more than 50 species, mainly living in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere.

Common Darter, Sympetrum striolatum

There are a lot of these around and I have dozens of photos to sort through before finding the best. There are one or two very red specimens, which may just be the Red-veined Darter, Sympetrum fonscolombii. Meanwhile one can identify redder specimens like those on the left as the male Common Darter and the yellower one below right as the female. The one at left was in a wood, while the ones below were near a pond in the garden.


So far the damselflies we've found clearly prefer to be near a pond or stream. Because they are small and alert they are difficult to photograph, and most of my pics are crops from a much larger shot, so the detail is not always fine as one would like. However, they can be astonishingly vivid colours and are a pleasure to find.

Family Coenagrionidae - Red and Blue/black damselflies

Azure Damselfly, Coenagron puella

There were a lot of Azures on the garden pond this year.

The Large Red was near a stream in a secluded part of the countryside along with the magical Beautiful Demoiselle shown beneath it.

Large Red Damselfly, Pyrrhosoma nymphula

Family Calopterygidae - Demoiselles

Beautiful Demoiselle, Calopteryx virgo

These exquisite demoiselles (what a name!) with their irridescent colours pushed my camera to the limit as they wouldn't come closer than 10-15 feet to where we were standing on a wooden bridge. The male is the blue one with dark wings, and the female has the bronzy-gold wings. They were flying and sunning themselves above a small stream deep in the countryside in early July.

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