DRAGONFLIES AND DAMSELFLIES

Dragonflies and damselflies belong to an order of insects called Odonata, and are characterized by two pairs of wings, slender body parts, large compound eyes, and a heavily toothed lower jaw, which is used to capture and hold prey. In their larval stage, all Odonata are restricted to water, and Muskoka's multitude of lakes, rivers, swamps, marshes, beaver ponds, and bogs provide plenty of habitat for a rich diversity of species. Although their larval stages are restricted to water, as adults, dragonflies in particular, can stray far from water and you can find these flying jewels in almost every habitat in Muskoka.

110 species of Odonata have been recorded in Muskoka - 77 species of dragonflies and 33 species of damselflies. View and print the Checklist of the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Muskoka here.


DRAGONFLIES VS. DAMSELFLIES
Dragonflies, which have hind wings that are distinctly larger and differently shaped than their forewings, hold their wings horizontally when at rest. Damselflies have two pairs of wings that are similar in size and shape, but they are usually held together behind their body when at rest. The eyes of most dragonflies, with the exception of clubtails, are not in contact with each other, while the eyes of damselflies are always separate.

Muskoka Field Naturalists
HOTSPOTS

BIRDS

BUTTERFLIES

MOTHS

DRAGONFLIES/
DAMSELFLIES


OTHER INSECTS

SPIDERS

REPTILES

AMPHIBIANS

MAMMALS

FISH

PLANTS

TREES

FERNS

FUNGI



SURVIVING THE WINTER
Most Odonata overwinter in their larval or nymph form in water bodies beneath winter's cover of ice, while other species, such as Lyre-tipped Spreadwing, deposit eggs into plant stems, which allows overwintering as eggs. A few species, such as the Common Green Darner, are migrants and adults arrive from the southern states and as far away as Central America in the spring. Their offspring, which are born here, migrate south in late summer and fall.
FLIGHT PERIODS
The time when an adult is active and on the wing is called its flight period. This flight period varies in duration and timing from species to species. Some species have a very short flight period. The Ocellated Emerald is active for only about a month. Other species, such as the Common Green Darner, can be found on the wing from early May to early October. Flight periods can also occur at different times of the year for different species. The Beaverpond Baskettail is active from early May to mid-July. Whereas other species, such as Spotted Spreadwing, are not active until early August to mid-October. One of the later-flying species, the Autumn Meadowhawk, has been recorded flying from mid-July into early November. Most species are active during the day, but some, like the Stygian Shadowdragon and the Shadow Darner, are crepuscular in nature, and fly late into the evening.
GET INVOLVED
MFN does not currently sponsor an Odonates count, but several Club members are very active "odonatists" and are happy to share their knowledge with others. Nearby Algonquin Provincial Park sponsors an annual Odonates count in early July. For details check the Algonquin Provincial Park website or contact their Visitor Information Centre.
DRAGONFLY AND DAMSELFLY RESOURCES
If you would like to learn more about the life histories of dragonflies and damselflies and learn how to identify them, then check out some of the following print and web-based resources recommended by MFN.
Print Resources

Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Algonquin Provincial Park and the Surrounding Area (Jones, Kingsley, Burke, Holder)

Dragonflies of the North Woods (Mead)

Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Paulson)

Damselflies of the Northeast: A Guide to Species of Eastern Canada and the Northeastern United States (Lam)

Dragonflies Through Binoculars: A Filed Guide to Dragonflies of North America (Dunkle)