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Dragonflies and Damselflies (Odonata)

For distribution maps of dragonflies and damselflies, visit the New York State Dragonfly and Damselfly Survey page.

General information about Dragonflies and Damselflies (Odonata)
Life history Dragonflies and damselflies can spend from a few weeks to 5 or 6 years as larvae in the water.
Diversity There are about 14 different families in North America.
This group has visible wing pads, their mouth is covered by an extensible "mask" (they use this to capture prey), they have 3 pairs of segmented legs, there are no gills along the side of the body, but some kinds have gills at the end of the body.
Habitat & Feeding Dragonfly and damselfly larvae live in lakes, ponds, streams, and wetlands and they are predators.
Water quality indicator status Some species are rare and live in unique habitats and have been listed on threatened and endangered lists. The presence of some types of dragonflies or damselflies may indicate that water quality is good and that the ecosystem has not been disturbed.
Fun facts
  • Dragonfly and damselfly ancestors appeared 280-350 million years ago!
  • Some damselfly larvae are territorial; they defend their area by striking the intruder with either their gills or with the extensible face mask to scare the intruder away.
image of Calopterygidae
Family: Calopterygidae
image of Gomphidae
Family: Gomphidae

image of Cordulegastridae
Family: Cordulegastridae
image of Coenagionidae
Family: Coenagionidae