Different types of damsels and their characteristics
Like the dragonfly, the damsels have a long abdomen, four wings and six legs. The abdomen of the damselfly is rounder and narrower than the dragonfly and the wings of a damselfly are unequal (unequal-winged) and the dragonfly they are equal (equal-winged). The convex, round and sometimes brightly colored eyes are far apart on the damsels, while the eyes on the dragonflies are set against each other. During the mating of the female and male damselfly, a beautiful heart can be seen as a mating wheel.
- The damselflies (Zygoptera)
- Characteristics of a damselfly larva
- Three gill blades
- Capture mask
- Characteristics of a damsel
- The abdomen
- The wings
- Spiky legs
- Family of damsels and damselfly species
- The heart-shaped mating wheel
- Damselfly metamorphosis
The damselflies (Zygoptera)
The damselflies (Zygoptera) or equipedes are a class of winged insects (Insecta) and fall within the order of the dragonflies (Odonata) which consists of two sub-orders. Namely:
- real dragonflies (Odonata);
- the damsels (Zygoptera).
The real dragonflies are called dragonflies for short and the damselflies are often called dragonflies. So by ‘dragonflies’ can be meant the whole family Odonata (dragonflies), both damselflies and dragonflies. Damselfly larvae and damselfly look different from dragonfly larvae and dragonflies. Damselflies live shorter than dragonflies, which live an average of six to eight weeks.
Characteristics of a damselfly larva
The damselfly and the dragonfly both belong to the order of the dragonflies (Odonata). A discerning observer sees the difference between the two species. The damselfly has as a larva in the water:
- three gill blades;
- a catch mask.
Three gill blades
The larvae of the damselfly have three gill blades (caudal lamellae) at the back of their body, to breathe and to be able to get out quickly in case of danger. Dragonfly larvae do not have these gill blades.
Damselfly larvae and dragonfly larvae are characterized by a kind of fold-out mouth at the bottom of the head with which prey is caught: the catching mask.
Characteristics of a damsel
When the damselfly crawls out of the larva, it can be recognized by:
- a long abdomen;
- four long equal wings;
- eyes that stand as hemispheres on either side of the head;
- an average length of five to seven centimeters;
- six spiny legs.
The abdomen of a damselfly is on average smaller and slender than that of the dragonfly, which has a large, broad and flat abdomen.
The wings are slightly next to each other when at rest or lie on the abdomen. Dragonflies and damselflies have two hind wings and two forewings. These are transparent wings with a network of veins and a colored spot on the leading edge, the pterostigma or the wing spot. The four wings of the damselfly have the same shape (equal-winged) in contrast to those of the dragonfly (non-equal-winged) which can use the fore and hind wings separately. At rest, the dragonflies’ wings are spread and it makes them fast and agile fliers, while damsels make much shorter flights and often sit in the vegetation.
The eyes of damsels are on both sides of the head and with dragonflies the eyes are next to each other on top of the head. In the eyes of damsels there are more than 12,000 facets (omnatidium) and in the eyes of a dragonfly 50,000. Each facet (light detector) has its own lens.
Damsels have an average length of five to seven centimeters and dragonflies average three to nine centimeters.
Damselflies and dragonflies have legs with long spines (thorns) so that a caught prey can no longer escape.
Family of damsels and damselfly species
The damsels are divided into four families. Namely, the:
- Broad-skinned damsels (Platycnemididae);
- Brook damsels (Calopterygidae);
- Guardian damselflies (Lestidae);
- Damselflies (Coenagrionidae)
In the Netherlands and Belgium only the blue broad-skinned damselfly can be seen as a species. The broad-skinned damselfly family is the only one of all damsels to have the shins (tibia) of the spiny legs, broadened with a striking white color with a black center stripe running through it. The female’s convex eyes are light green, just like the thorax and abdomen and the eyes of the male are bright blue with a pale blue breastpiece and abdomen. The blue broad-skinned damselfly is a damselfly with a preference for slow-flowing streams, rivers and canals. The broad-skinned damselfly can also be observed in larger oxygen-rich pools such as sand quarries. The female lays the eggs on plants near the water and the male stands guard with the abdomen in the air.
The Brook Damselfly can be found near streams and rivers with running water. The large wings of the brook damselfly have veins that are completely blue or partially filled. They are not transparent like the wings of other damsels. However, the wings of the female of the meadow brook damselfly are not filled with blue, but in green metallic and transparent. The two species that can be seen in the Netherlands and Belgium are the:
- Meadow Damselfly, the most common species;
- Woodland Damselfly, a rare species.
The somewhat more robust damselfly is often present on peaty grounds with shallow water nearby. It has a beautiful metallic colored chest and rear body. The wings are slightly spread at rest. The different types in the Netherlands and Belgium are:
- common damselfly;
- Tang Armored Damselfly;
- Roaming Damselfly;
- Petite Damselfly;
- Wood panhandle damselfly; The wood armor damselfly lays the eggs in trees, which hang above the water. The larva (or nymph) falls into the water after leaving the egg;
- Brown damselfly; The adult winter damselfly hatches in autumn, to hibernate in winter as an image;
- Nordic winter damselfly; The Brown Damselfly and the Nordic Damselfly are the only damselfly species that hibernate as adults.
A damselfly, the males of which often have a bright blue or red color and the females usually have a different or lighter color, making it very difficult to name. The damselflies in Belgium and the Netherlands are a family with the most species and many blue or red damselflies. There are fifteen species of damselflies in the Netherlands and Belgium, namely:
- Lantern; the male is first green and later blue and the female colors from violet to blue / green to light orange / pink and at the end brown-gray;
- Petite Grass Damselfly; the male is green at first and later blue and the female is orange at first and olive green later;
- Snuffel; the male is blue and the female is blue to green / pink;
- Variable dragonfly; the male is blue and the female is blue-green, yellow-brown or pinkish;
- Azure Damselfly; the male is azure blue and the female is blue / greenish;
- Mercuur damselfly; the male is blue and the female is yellow-green;
- Forked damselfly; the male is blue and the female is blue / greenish;
- Spear damselfly. the male is blue and the female is blue / green;
- Moon Damselfly; the male is blue and the female is lighter in color.
- Dark dragonfly; the male is blue and the female is slightly greenish;
- Large red-eyed damselfly; the male is blue with large red eyes and the female is yellowish in color, without red eyes;
- Small red-eyed damselfly; the male is blue with red eyes and the female is blue / green with a little reddish brown at the top of the eye and green at the bottom of the eye;
- Channel damselfly; the male is blue and the female has three colors (blue, green, brown);
- Fire Damselfly; the abdomen of the male is bright red and the last segments of the abdomen have dark bands. The eyes are red and the females are less red, have a greenish breast and greenish eyes.
- Coral damselfly; the abdomen of the male is bright red without black bands on the abdomen. The female is less red and may even have a black appearance. The clear difference between the Coral Damselfly and the Fire Damselfly are the legs. The legs of the coral damselfly are red / orange and black on the fire damselfly.
The heart-shaped mating wheel
The mating of damsels is special to see. The male that wants to mate does so by grasping the female with his abdomen above the neck shield and this gives half the heart shape. The male has a primary sex organ just below the thorax and a secondary sex organ at the end of the abdomen. The sperm is transferred from the abdomen to the thorax where the female brings her abdomen to mating and the fusion now shows a full heart shape (the mating wheel). The heart shape can last from a few seconds to hours.
After about two weeks, larvae hatch from the egg: a small and worm-like animal that has no legs (pro larva). After several molts the larvae have three pairs of legs, large eyes and jaws that they can unfold to eat aquatic creatures. They breathe through the gills at the end of the abdomen. The larvae shed an average of ten to thirteen times (an incomplete metamorphosis, which means that they do not resemble a damselfly in one step) and have an underwater life of several years on average. With each molt, the larvae more and more resemble an adult damselfly. The last molt is between the shoreline of the water where the larva crawls out of the water. Hanging on reed the larval skin bursts open and very slowly the image (the adult damselfly) crawls out. After the wings have dried, the damselfly can fly away and then live as a damself for an average of two months. The Brown and Nordic Winter Damselfly are an exception to this, because they hibernate as adults and can live up to eight months.