Nebraska Dragonflies and Damselflies

University of Nebraska State Museum - Department of Entomology


Suborder Zygoptera

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Damselflies are the smaller, more delicate cousins of dragonflies. They are readily found near almost any body of water but spend more time in the shoreline vegetation than do dragonflies. As with dragonflies, damsels spend the first year or so of their lives in the water, as nymphs. In this form they possess a unique hinged and hooked lower lip which can be extended out to grasp prey. The damselfly nymph eventually climbs out of the water, and the adult damselfly emerges. The adult lives only a few weeks to a few months.

Stream Bluet
Stream Bluet pair. Photo courtesy of Terry Hibbitts.
Slender Spreadwing
Slender Spreadwing. Photo courtesy of Terry Hibbitts.

Most damselflies hold their wings together above their bodies. Their eyes are set far apart on the head. They have a more fluttery style of flight than do dragonflies but are no less voracious in consuming smaller insects, such as gnats and mosquitoes. They are easier to approach and capture than are dragonflies, but their small size makes their features more difficult to see. A hand lens is useful.

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Citation: Paseka, J. M. 2021. Nebraska dragonflies and damselflies. URL