Re-posted from last year — in tribute to burgeoning life on the springtime pond.

In this melee of global strife and catastrophe, there’s at least one thing you can know for sure: dragonfly or damselfly.

I blame the awesome macro of my telephoto lens for this post. I went to UC Berkeley Botanical Garden for a walk and some flower macro practice. I was barely 100 yards inside the gate when I noticed the thinnest of dragonflies making their Harrier moves across the pond.

This is where photography can make you a social misfit. I spent the next 20 minutes hunched over my camera like a machine gunner, oblivious to all the people who must have passed by and imagined the great shots I’d have of overexposed water.

What they didn’t know is that when I offloaded my pics, I’d have some head-on captures of … flying monkeys. Without my lens, I couldn’t have imagined the complexity of expression, in the ephemera of an insect I saw skittering across the pond.

Blue Damselfly

Blue Damselfly - ©ingridtaylar

Google searches of “dragonfly” and “blue” opened up the world of damselfly misidentification for me. So here’s the scoop for all of us neophytes:

Dragonfly tends to be the common, catch-all term for insects in the order Odonata. Within this order of dragonflies and damselflies, you’ll find variations among families: darners, biddies, clubtails, skimmers.

When distinguishing between the dragons and the damsels, it’s relatively easy once you see them up close. There are a few identifying characteristics unique to each. A damselfly looks like this:

Blue Damselfly

Blue Damselfly - ©ingridtaylar

This is a Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum), loafing today at the Japanese Pool, UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens.

And this is a dragonfly:

Red Dragonfly

Red Dragonfly - ©ingridtaylar

Some of the traits apparent in the damselfly, as contrasted with the dragonfly:

  • Tail end/abdomen is thinner
  • Wings lie, more or less, in alignment with body whereas with dragonflies, the wings are horizontal at rest
  • Damselfly eyes tend to set apart on either side of the head, and dragonfly eyes will often meet

Both damselflies and dragonflies, found around aquatic habitats, are predators from day one. The larvae feed on aquatic organisms, then emerge into adulthood where they feast on a variety insects, including gnats and mosquitoes.

I captured a few frames of a damselfly mating ritual as magic-hour sunbeams burst onto their pond. This hitched pair meandered among the lily pads, along with several unhitched bystanders and interlopers.


Damselfly Pair - ©ingridtaylar

Dragonfly - Photo/

Damselfly Pair - ©ingridtaylar

Dragonfly - Photo/

Damselfly Pair - ©ingridtaylar


Damselfly - ©ingridtaylar

Photographing damselflies: Damselflies will alight when startled but they often come back to the same perch. So, if you see a damselfly too late and happen to rustle it, wait a few moments, focus the lens, and there’s a chance he or she will land in precisely the same spot.

The Tree of Life Web Project has some descriptions of the insects and their anatomy, including detailed images of their wings as well as information on their life cycles and behaviors.