Difference Between Dragonfly and Damselfly

The main difference between dragonfly and damselfly is that dragonflies have sturdier and thicker bodies whereas damselflies have longer and thinner bodies. Dragonfly keeps its wings horizontally at rest while damselfly closes its wings at rest.

Dragonfly and damselfly are two predatory insects that belong to the order Odonata. They are the colorful and fascinating insects found in late summer gardens. Generally, it is difficult to identify the difference between dragonfly and damselfly. However, several distinct characteristics such as slender bodies, membranous wings, and large eyes can be used to identify them from each other.

Key Areas Covered

1. Dragonfly
     – Definition, Characteristics
2. Damselfly
    – Definition, Characteristics
3. What are the Similarities Between Dragonfly and Damselfly
    – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Dragonfly and Damselfly
    – Comparison of Key Differences

 Key Terms: Body, Damselfly, Dragonfly, Eyes, Membranous Wings

Difference Between Dragonfly and Damselfly - Comparison Summary

Dragonfly – Definition, Characteristics

Dragonfly refers to a fast-flying, long-bodied, predatory insect with two pairs of transparent wings, which are spread out sideways at rest. It belongs to the suborder Anisoptera. The flight of dragonfly is strong and purposeful. It can fly at about 100 body-lengths per second in the forward direction while at about 3 body-lengths per second in the reverse direction. 

Difference Between Dragonfly and a Damselfly

Figure 1: Dragonfly

Dragonflies spend most of their lifetime in the larval stage. Some of the commonly seen dragonflies are broad-bodied chaser, brown, hawker, Southern hawker, migrant hawker, common darter, etc.

Damselfly – Definition, Characteristics

Damselfly refers to a slender insect that rests with wings folded back along the body. It belongs to the suborder Zygoptera. All the four wings of damselfly are similar in size and shape. Damselfly has a weak flight with fluttering. 

Main Difference - Dragonfly and Damselfly

Figure 2: Damselfly

Generally, damselfly loves water; therefore, it often stays on the water surfaces. Some common damselfly species include large red damselfly, common blue damselfly, azure damselfly, emerald damselfly, and blue-tailed damselfly.

Similarities Between Dragonfly and Damselfly

  • Dragonfly and damselfly are predatory insects.
  • They are invertebrate arthropods.
  • They belong to the order Odonata.
  • Both can be found during the late summer.
  • Both have four membranous wings with many small veins.
  • The wings are attached to the thorax.
  • The abdomen is elongated in both types of insects.
  • Both have extremely large eyes, minute antennae, a long, slender abdomen, aquatic larvae with posterior tracheal gills, and extendible jaws underneath the head (prehensile labium).
  • Both undergo complete metamorphosis.

Difference Between Dragonfly and Damselfly


Dragonfly: A fast-flying, long-bodied, predatory insect with two pairs of transparent wings, which are spread out sideways at rest

Damselfly: A slender insect, resting with the wings folded back along the body


Dragonfly: Anisoptera (unequal winged)

Damselfly: Zygoptera (yoke-winged)

Eye Shape

Dragonfly: Broadly rounded eyes

Damselfly: Spherical eyes

Eye Position

Dragonfly: Eyes touch or nearly touch the top of the head

Damselfly: Eyes are clearly separated at each side of the head

Body Size

Dragonfly: Large (3 inches long)

Damselfly: Comparatively small

Body Shape

Dragonfly: Stocky

Damselfly: Long and slender


Dragonfly: Thorax is broader than abdomen

Damselfly: Thorax is narrow and has the same width as the abdomen

Wing Shape

Dragonfly: Dissimilar wing pairs; hindwing is broader at the base

Damselfly: Similar wing pairs in both size and shape


Dragonfly: Known as fliers; covers a long distance

Damselfly: Known as perchers; only covers a short distance

Water Sources

Dragonfly: Does not prefer water

Damselfly: Likes water and tend to fly to water sources

Position of the Wings at Rest

Dragonfly: Wings held open either horizontally or downwards

Damselfly: Wings held closed over the abdomen

Discal Cell

Dragonfly: Discal cell is divided into triangles

Damselfly: Discal cell is undivided and quadrilateral

Male Appendages

Dragonfly: Pair of superior anal appendages and a single inferior appendage

Damselfly: Two pairs of anal appendages

Female Appendages

Dragonfly: Have vestigial ovipositors

Damselfly: Have functional ovipositors


Dragonfly: Large and round (0.5 mm long)

Damselfly: Cylindrical and longer (1 mm long)


Dragonfly: Breathe through rectal tracheal gills; stocky bodies

Damselfly: Breathe through caudal gills; slender bodies


Dragonfly is large and stockier while damselfly is small and has a slender body. Both have a narrow and long abdomen. But, the abdomen of the dragonfly is broader compared to the abdomen of the damselfly. Also, dragonfly keeps their wings horizontally at rest while damselfly closes their wings at rest. The main difference between dragonfly and damselfly is the size and the shape of the body and the wings.


1. “Dragonfly.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 29 Mar. 2018, 
2. “Damselflies.” British-Dragonflies.org.uk, 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Sympetrum flaveolum – side (aka)” By André Karwath aka Aka – Own work via
2. “Damselfly October 2007 Osaka Japan” By LaitcheLink to My Website. – Own work (Public Domain) via

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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