Dragonflies and damselflies, like cockroaches, are one of the oldest types of insects. The only
thing that has changed about dragonflies and damselflies, known as "Odonata," are their size. In
prehistoric times, when dinosaurs could be found roaming the earth, odonata were as big as hawks.
Odonate fossils have been discovered in Kansas, Siberia, and many other parts of the world. They
had wingspans of about thirty inches and were the largest insects to ever live.--
Dragonflies and damselflies are fairly large flying insects. They are often very colorful and
are carnivorous - they hunt and eat meat. Even though they can fly, odonates are considered aquatic
insects because they live near fresh water and their larvae (young form) actually live in water.
Dragonflies have been an extremely popular subject of folklore in many cultures, most notably Japan.
In Europe they have been regarded as dangerous, but they neither sting nor bite and are in fact
completely harmless to humans. Actually, odonates are in some ways beneficial as predators because
they can be used to control pests. The quality of the environment can be somewhat monitored by
odonates because their presence is strongly affected by different factors such as waterflow,
pollution, and vegetation. Odonate larvae are sometimes used as bait by fishermen, and adults are a
minor food item in some countries, but other than that dragonflies are of little economic importance.--
(Tree of Life)
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checklist in the Great Smoky Mountains.
In general, the head of the adult is large and is dominated by the compound eyes. The face
carries a pair of very short antennae. The thorax is skewed (small in front and large in back),
which enhances perching and grasping abilities. The legs are strong enough to perch or hold
prey but not suitable for walking. The abdomen is long (at least the length of one wing),
flexible, and divided into ten segments. Both male and female odonates have clasping organs
at the end of the abdomen. The females sometimes have an ovipositor under abdominal segments
9-10 with which to lay their eggs, and the males always have secondary genitalia under segments 2-3.
Damselflies (Zygoptera), for the most part, appear more fragile than dragonflies (Anisoptera).
Dragonflies rest with their wings pointed straight out to the sides, while damselflies usually
rest with their wings more upward, fitting neatly along the top of the abdomen. Odonata cannot
fold their wings over the body like most insects. --
(Tree of Life)
- Corduliidae - green eyed skimmers
- Libellulidae - common skimmers
- Macromiidae - belted skimmers and river skimmers
- Calopterygidae - broad-winged damselflies
- Coenagrionidae - narrow-winged damselflies
- Lestidae - spread-winged damselflies
- Platystictidae - shadowdamsels
- Protoneuridae - threadtails
|Anisozygoptera - a combination of the other two suborders, only
represented by two existing species (one in Japan and
one in the Himalayas)
Common names & synonyms
The name "Odonata," created by a man named Fabricus in 1793, comes from Latin and means "toothed."
The family name Libellula may have been derived from the Latin "libella" which means "booklet,"
and with some imagination, a resting dragonfly can look like a small booklet.
Odonata have widely been objects of superstition. In Germany, odonata have had over 150 different
names, including names that mean "devil's needle," "water witch," "goddess' horse," "devil's horse,"
and "snake killer." In England, names meaning "devil's darning needle" and "horse stinger" have been
used. In Denmark, some names mean "devil's riding horse" and "goldsmith." A Swedish name means
"hobgoblin fly"; long ago, the people in Sweden believed that goblins, elves and fairies lived in the
woods and used dragonflies as twisting tools. Another Swedish name means "blind stinger," and comes
from the belief that dragonflies can pick out your eyes or even sew them shut. Also, odonata have
obviously been connected to females: "damselfly." The body shape of odonata have led them to earn
names than mean "devil's steelyard" and such because they look like heavy tools. The myth is that the
Devil uses them to weigh a persons soul, and when a dragonfly flies around your head, you should expect
On the other hand, dragonflies are also thought to to beneficial. In Scandinavia, one cult worships the
dragonfly as a symbol of a love goddess. Dragonflies are caught to be fried or eaten in soups in such
places as Indonesia, Africa, and South America. In China and Japan, odonata are treated as holy creatures
and are believed to have medicinal properties. The species Sympetrum frequens is actually used to help
reduce fever. -- (Dragonfly Folklore)