Before taking to the sky, damselflies, and their close relatives the dragonflies, develop in still water such as ponds, lakes, marshes, and bogs. The nymphs are predatory like their adult counterparts, capturing aquatic invertebrates, with larger species even capturing small fish and tadpoles. They typically use a sit-and-wait technique in combination with a surprising weapon. When prey is in striking distance, nymphs rapidly extend their arm-like lower lips (labia), which have grasping jaws at their tips.
After undergoing nine to 12 molts, they undergo partial metamorphosis, the mature larvae clambering out of the water (usually at night) and the winged adult emerging from the split exoskeleton.
Damselflies and dragonflies, although part of the same larger group (Odonata), have distinct differences. While there are a number to choose from, we like to focus on the way they hold their wings and how their eyes are spaced. Damselflies hold their wings either partly opened or completely closed together over their bodies (most do the latter) and have a wide space between their compound eyes …think of grapes on either side of the head. Dragonflies hold their wings outstretched at rest, sometimes angled downward, and have eyes that touch or nearly touch atop their heads …more like a helmet.
Photo by: Glenn Marangelo on 5/1/21 in Clinton, MT