Dragonflies are insects in the sub-order Anisoptera (meaning “unequal-winged”). In Great Britain and Ireland there are about 30 species that may be encountered.

The term ‘dragonflies’ is sometimes used for the whole scientific order Odonata that also includes the sub-order Zygoptera (damselflies).

Characteristics Of True Dragonflies

Body: Large and robust.

Wings: Hind wings are usually shorter and broader than the forewings.

Eyes: Very large and usually touch at the top of the head.

 

 

Southern Hawker image by Christophe Brochard

Gender

Male

 

Body: often thinner in the abdomen with a narrow ‘waist’ near the top of the abdomen.

Accessory genitalia: Used for transferring sperm to the female during copulation. Located under segment 2 of the abdomen.

Anal appendages: Visible at the very end of the abdomen.

 

Male Southern Hawker dorsal image by Airwolfhound

Male Southern Hawker side image by Ian Preston

Female

 

Body: Often thicker in the abdomen.

Ovipositor: Appendage used for egg laying. Located under segment 8-9 of the abdomen.

 

Female Southern Hawker dorsal image by Ian Worsley

Female Southern Hawker side image by Ian Preston

Age

In many species of dragonflies adults change colour as they mature.

Tenerals: Newly emerged adults are often paler in colouration.

Mature adults: As an adult becomes sexually mature this is often indicated by a change in coloration.

Over mature: In some species, adults become darker in coloration as they age.

 

Mature Female Common Darter image by Andrew Holloway

 

Over-mature Female Common Darter image by Charlie Jackson

Immature Male Common Darter by Iain Leach

Mature Male Common Darter by Suzy Shipman

Nationally Important Species

 

Endangered:              Norfolk Hawker            White-faced Darter

Vulnerable:                Azure Hawker               Brilliant Emerald

Near threatened:     Northern Emerald        Scarce Chaser           Common Clubtail

 

Title image: Black Darter by Iain Leach