Dragonflies and damselflies are members of the insect order Odonata. There are about 5,000 species recognized worldwide, of which 300 plus species are found in North America. About 75 species are commonly found in Florida. They are large insects with three major body parts: head, thorax, and abdomen. The head has two large compound eyes, three simple eyes, two inconspicuous antennae, and toothed jaws. The thorax supports six legs and four membranous wings. The segmented abdomen is long and slender.
Although similar in appearance, there are several key differences between dragonflies and damselflies. In damselflies, the forewings and hindwings are similar in shape. In dragonflies, the hindwings are larger than the forewings. When perched, damselflies hold their wings pressed together over their backs or partially spread., while dragonflies hold their wings straight out to the sides. Damselflies tend to be smaller and more slender than dragonflies. Damselflies are weak fliers, staying low to the ground, near the water's surface, or among vegetation. Dragonflies are stronger, faster, and typically are found flying out in the open.
There are three major families of damselflies and seven dragonfly families. They are listed below.