Dragonflies & Damselflies

Dragonflies and damselflies are insects with small antennae, large eyes with up to 30,000 facets, two pairs of wings, and jaws. They have teeth, too, which they use to catch their prey in midair! To help avoid being eaten themselves, they have strong eyesight and can move very quickly when they sense predators.


Water Relationships

These insects lay their eggs in water or on vegetation very close to water. All start out their lives as nymphs, and remain underwater during this stage for about 1-2 years. As adults, they will travel away from water to feed, but must return to reproduce and lay eggs to start a new generation.

Riverbank and Shoreline Relationships

These insects will sometimes lay their eggs on vegetation near the shoreline. They also may use the riverbank to rest between hunting and breeding. 

St. Croix Snaketail

Plant Relationships

Dragonflies and damselflies need plants to keep them sheltered from wind, weather, extreme temperatures, and predators. Many species also rely on plants to lay their eggs.

Relationships with Other Animals

These insects are generalists, meaning they will eat many different types of prey (mostly insects), depending on what is available. While dragonflies and damselflies hunt and eat smaller insects, they are prey for fish, frogs, birds, and spiders in both their nymph and adult forms. If the populations of these insects decline, animals that rely on them for food will also decline, while the insects they eat will increase in numbers. These population changes would affect the ecosystem as a whole.

Dragonfly eating a mosquito.

Weather Relationships

When it is very cold, dragonflies will not hunt. Damselflies are a little more adaptable, but even they won’t be able to withstand very cold temperatures. Since the nymph stage of these insects can last more than a year, they will spend at least one winter in the water. If the winter is much longer or shorter than average, their life cycle might be impacted.

Record your Research

  • Gather information about relationships the animal has with other living things and nonliving parts of its water ecosystem. 
  • Describe any relationships you noticed when visiting a lake, river, or wetland.