dragonfly identification chart

Dragonfly Identification Chart Guide & Tips

Dragonflies and damselflies, both belonging to the scientific order Odonata, are found throughout the United States and serve as indicators of water quality. Dragonflies are larger than damselflies, and their identification is popular among enthusiasts. There are close to 350 dragonfly species documented in the United States. The skimmer dragonflies, belonging to the Libellulidae family, are the most common, with approximately 105 species. Darners, Spiketails, Clubtails, Petaltails, Emerald Dragonflies, River Cruisers, Broadwing Damselflies, Spreadwing Damselflies, and Narrow-winged Damselflies are other types of dragonflies found in the United States. Dragonflies have a life span of six months to several years and are known to be beneficial insects as they prey on harmful insects. They do not bite or sting.

Key Takeaways:

  • Dragonflies and damselflies are indicators of water quality.
  • Dragonflies are larger than damselflies.
  • There are close to 350 dragonfly species in the United States.
  • Skimmer dragonflies are the most common with approximately 105 species.
  • Dragonflies have a life span of six months to several years and are beneficial insects.

Skimmers: Libellulidae

Skimmers, belonging to the Libellulidae family, are the largest dragonfly family in North America. They are commonly found near slow-moving water areas such as ponds and wetlands. Skimmers rest in the sun and are easy to photograph and identify. There are approximately 105 species in the Libellulidae family, belonging to twenty-six different genera. Skimmer identification begins by finding them and observing general identification rules such as wing patterns, body patterns, and color.

The Common Whitetail and Great Blue Skimmer are notable species of skimmer dragonflies.

Skimmer Dragonflies


Darners are large, often blue-spotted dragonflies commonly found around ponds, streams, and lakes in the United States. The Aeshna genus, particularly the Mosaic Darners, comprises a significant portion of the darner species. Male darners exhibit blue patterns on their thorax and abdomen, while females produce similar patterns in shades of yellow and green. The absence or presence of thoracic stripes serves as an identification clue for mosaic darners.

“The bright blue colors on the male mosaic darners always catch my attention. It’s fascinating to observe their wing patterns and elaborate thoracic designs.”

  • Key features of darner dragonflies:
  • Large size
  • Blue-spotted bodies
  • Found near ponds, streams, and lakes
  • Aeshna genus, including Mosaic Darners
  • Distinctive thoracic patterns


Dragonflies, one of the oldest insect species on Earth, have captivated humans with their fascinating characteristics. With a rich diversity of colors and patterns, dragonflies are truly a sight to behold. Their wings, which can span up to 5 inches, enable them to soar through the air with remarkable agility.

Known for their breathtaking flying abilities, dragonflies can reach speeds of up to 60 mph and maneuver effortlessly in any direction. Their vision is equally impressive, with each eye comprised of up to 30,000 tiny lenses, allowing them to detect even the slightest movement.

But dragonflies are more than just fascinating creatures; they play a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance. As beneficial insects, they act as natural pest control by feeding on harmful insects, contributing to the overall health of ecosystems. Dragonflies, however, pose no harm to humans as they do not bite or sting.

Dragonflies undergo a remarkable life cycle, spending most of their time as nymphs in the water before transforming into the stunning adults we often admire. Their life span can vary from six months to several years, depending on the species. This demonstrates their incredible resilience and adaptability as they navigate through their aquatic and aerial habitats.

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