Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A&M University System
Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University

Order Odonata


Odonata are large insects with two pairs of membranous, many-veined wings; the hind pair are as large as or larger than the front pair. Mouthparts are formed for chewing. They have large conspicuous eyes. Aquatic immature stages, called nymphs (or naiads) live in flowing or still water and are not much like the adults in appearance. Adults are common around ponds, lakes and streams.

Immature Odonata have chewing mouthparts. Naiads have elongated extensible labium with piercing jaws used to capture prey. Dragonflies naiads have elongate or flattened bodies the do not have flattened tail like projections. Damselflies naiads have elongate tails with three flattened tails.

Both the adults and the naiads feed on insects. They are beneficial, because they feed to some extent on mosquitoes and other small flies. Adult dragonflies and damselflies can hover like a helicopter or fly and dart around rapidly. Dragonflies tend to hold their wings flat out from their sides when at rest. Damselflies tend to hold their wings together over the abdomen. They have been called "mosquito hawks" and "snake doctors."

Odonata have incomplete metamorphosis. They are 1/4 inch to over 1 inch in length.

Some insects in this order: Common skimmer, dragonfly, damselfly

Common skimmer, Lubellula luctosa Burmeister, male.  Photo by N. Mirro.
Click on image to enlarge
Common skimmer,
Libellula luctosa Burmeister
(Odonata: Libellulidae), male.
Photo by N. Mirro.

From the book:
Field Guide to Texas Insects,
Drees, B.M. and John Jackman,
Copyright 1999, Gulf Publishing Company,
Houston, Texas

A Field Guide to Common Texas Insects, Bastiaan M. Drees and John A. Jackman.
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University •  Department of Entomology  •  412 Heep Center, TAMU 2475
College Station, TX 77843-2475 • 979.845.2516
Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University