How to tell the difference between dragonflies and damselflies

How to tell the difference between dragonflies and damselflies

Get some top tips for telling the difference between dragons and damsels

You're probably spotting dragonflies and damselfies flying around at the moment. They spend most of their lives as nymphs living underwater, only emerging in late spring or summer to find a mate and breed. While they're on the wing, find out more about these interesting insects.

Did you know there are about 5,500 different species found throughout the world. Each of our three counties has about 30 species. See how many different species you can see this summer!

Southern hawker

Southern hawker dragonfly by Guy Edwardes/2020Vision


  • Dragonflies are generally larger and more robust than damselflies.
  • They have a strong, fast and agile flight.
  • When they rest they hold their wings out at right angles to their body.
  • Their fore wings are different from their hind wings.
  • Their eyes are large and generally meet at the top of their head.

Explore some of our dragonflies

Common blue

Common blue damselfly by Les Binns


  • Damselflies tend to be small and delicate looking with a thin abdomen.
  • Their flight is relatively slow and weak compared to dragonflies.
  • When they're at rest the hold their wings close along the length of their abdomen (except the emerald damselflies).
  • Their wings are about equal size and shape.
  • Their eyes are always separated.

Explore some of our damselflies

See all damselflies

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