Dainty Killers

The other day, I was looking down from our deck which overlooks a flower garden. A damselfly had settled onto a rock amidst the colorful plants, its wings folded vertically above its thin torso. I soon noticed several others, perched on flower stalks or directly on the mulch.

Unlike their cousins, the dragonflies, damselflies are rather delicate insects with comparatively weak flight capabilities. As a result, they prefer to hunt by stealth, patiently waiting for small, flying insects to pass nearby. A variety of beetles, flies and other sizable insects are beyond their kill capacity so they must focus on less formidable prey. Once a potential meal is located, the damselfly springs into the air, snares the victim and returns to its perch, a behavior reminiscent of our small avian flycatchers.

Represented by many species, damselflies would be easily overlooked were it not for the bright neon coloration of the males. Like dragonflies, they mate in the air and females lay their eggs on aquatic vegetation; those that hatch (and are not eaten by fish, amphibians and herons), spend from several months to two years as aquatic larvae before enjoying their single, brief summer as aerial hunters.