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20 Types of Dragonflies: Species, Facts and Photos

Exploring the various types of dragonflies can offer insights beyond their physical appearance. These insects play a significant role in our ecosystems and possess unique features. 

Each species has distinct traits, from their behavior in various habitats to their diverse diets. With a diverse range of species, the story of dragonflies reflects the complexities of nature. Let's enter the world of flying hunters!

Related Read: Animals That Start With D.

Dragonfly Classification

Dragonflies belong to the suborder2 Anisoptera within the larger order Odonata. Recent numbers say there are 2,967 recorded species of dragonflies existing worldwide. In the same order, there are damselflies under the suborder Zygoptera comprising 3,332 species. 

To quickly distinguish between dragonflies and damselflies, the former have their wings folded along their back. At the same time, the latter hold their wings out from their body.

Dragonflies come in various colors and patterns. For instance, the male Eastern amberwing has amber-colored wings.

Most species live in tropical areas, near ponds, rivers, marshes, and beaches; dragonfly nymphs are aquatic. However, each species has its distinct preference for the environment they inhabit. 

For example, the American Emerald tends to breed in marshy areas. She prefers cooler climates, while the Common Sanddragon is home in the sand near streams and rivers.

Read more: Dragonfly Facts,

20 Types of Dragonfly Species

1. Common Green Darner (Anax junius)

Common Green Darner
Photo by Joshua Mayer on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Common Green Darner is a dragonfly species that lives near ponds or marshes during warm summer days. This species is called the Common Green Darner because it resembles a darning needle.

Growing up to three inches long, darners contain some of the biggest dragonflies in North America. They also number among the larger dragonflies in the world.

Its thorax shows a green color that shines brightly in sunlight. Males have a blue hue on their abdomens that contrasts with their green bodies, while females have a more subtle green coloration. Moreover, this darner dragonfly can migrate hundreds of miles yearly, which is impressive for any insect. 

2. Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)

Blue Dasher
Photo by Lea Maimone on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 (Cropped from original).

The Blue Dasher is a dragonfly commonly found in North America. Male Blue Dashers have a blue abdomen and greenish-blue eyes, while females and juveniles display a brownish-grey color. 

They measure between 1.2 to 1.6 inches, which puts them in the medium-sized bracket of dragonfly species. 

Blue Dashers prefer calm waters or slow-moving streams with vegetation, such as marshes, ponds, and lakes.

3. Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Eastern Pondhawk
Photo by gailhampshire on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Eastern Pondhawk is a species of dragonfly commonly found in the eastern and central United States. This dragonfly has a bright green face with black markings, hence the name. 

Eastern Pondhawks exhibit sexual dimorphism and have an average length of 1.5 to 2 inches. Males have bright blue bodies, while females and juveniles are green.

They live near ponds, lakes, marshes, and slow-moving streams, where they hunt for insects. 

During the summer, males become territorial defenders and attract multiple mates, while females lay their eggs on submerged vegetation. 

4. Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)

Widow Skimmer
Photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Widow Skimmer is a dragonfly species found in North America, recognizable by its unique wing pattern with dark bands that stretch across the wings' midpoint. 

The males have white patches on their wings and blue-white bodies, while females and immature males have an earthy brown color with a yellow stripe on each side of their abdomen. 

They often live near ponds, slow-moving streams, and lakes, feeding on mosquitoes and flies. 

5. Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella)

Twelve-spotted Skimmer
Photo by Rhododendrites on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Twelve-spotted Skimmer is a highly admired species due to its unique and fascinating characteristics. It is easily identifiable by the twelve black spots on each of its four wings, a unique pattern that resembles brushstrokes. 

Males have an additional set of white spots between the black ones, which differentiate them from the female. The males also have polka-dot patterns on their bodies and transparent wings. As the dragonflies mature, their bodies become blue, contrasting with the brown body color of females and juveniles, which feature yellow stripes that run down their sides.

The Twelve-spotted Skimmer is native to North America. It ranges from the cold regions of Canada to the warmer regions of Mexico. It thrives in sunlit open spaces close to calm or slow-moving bodies of water, such as marshes, ponds, and lazy streams. They often rest in the sunshine on nearby vegetation. 

6. American Emerald (Cordulia shurtleffii)

American Emerald
Photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The American Emerald has striking green eyes that have inspired its name. They are medium-sized dragonflies, measuring approximately 1.8 inches from head to tail, with males having a metallic green thorax and abdomen. In contrast, females have a bronze hue on their abdomen. 

These types of dragonflies are sedentary; most of their life cycle happens in the larval stage, lasting up to two years. They submerge themselves in the waters of marshes, slow-moving streams, or vegetation-rich ponds, where they hunt other aquatic creatures. 

American Emeralds dart and hover in the air when they finally emerge as adult dragonflies. These late-season fliers remain active even as the seasons shift and cooler temperatures set in.

7. Crimson Marsh Glider (Trithemis aurora)

Crimson Marsh Glider
Photo by Rison Thumboor on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Crimson Marsh Glider is a dragonfly species living in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The males of the species have red bodies, while the females and young ones have a yellow-brown color. Their wings are transparent with a tint of crimson. 

8. Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea)

Roseate Skimmer
Photo by gailhampshire on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Roseate Skimmer is a dragonfly species in the Americas. Their pinkish bodies stand out against the blue sky; they typically live near water with abundant vegetation. Females and juvenile males have yellow-striped brown coats.

9. Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata)

 Black Saddlebags
Photo by JerryFriedman on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Black Saddlebags dragonfly is a type of skimmer dragonfly found in the aquatic environments of North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Asia. 

They have a 2.8 to 3.5 inches wingspan and a body length of approximately 2 inches. They make rapid wing beats and punctuating glide and hover movements. ‘

Male Black Saddlebags are black, while the females and young males have a lighter yellow-brown hue.

10. Cherry-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum internum)

Cherry-faced Meadowhawk
Photo by The High Fin Sperm Whale on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Cherry-faced Meadowhawk has a vibrant cherry-red face and thorax that males develop as they age. Females and young males have a unique yellowish-brown hue with black triangular spots. 

This species lives in Alaska, Canada, and the northern United States. They prefer marshy habitats near slow-moving rivers, calm ponds, or vast lakes, where they feed on small flying insects like mosquitoes and flies.

During the day, the Cherry-faced Meadowhawk basks in the sunlight, perched on plants, rocks, or the ground near water bodies. At dusk, they dance, darting around in the cooling air. 

11. Hine's Emerald Dragonfly (Somatochlora hineana)

Hine's Emerald Dragonfly
Photo by USFWS Midwest Region on Flickr (Public Domain).

Dr. Clarence Hine discovered Hine's Emerald Dragonfly, hence its name. Its appearance is striking, with green eyes, a metallic green body, and yellow stripes on its thorax and abdomen. They are relatively large dragonflies, with a body length of up to 2.5 inches and a wingspan of up to 3.5 inches. 

Unlike other dragonflies, the Hine's Emerald Dragonfly has unique flying abilities, hovering in the air and darting in a straight line. 

These emerald dragonflies typically inhabit wetland habitats, such as fens and sedge meadows, where water flows slowly. 

12. Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)

Halloween Pennant
Photo by Richard Stovall on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Halloween Pennant lives in Eastern North America. It is named after Halloween due to its unique wing pattern and behavior. The dark bands on its wings give it an eerie look, and it has an unusual habit of perching atop plants and grasses and swaying with the wind.

13. Broad-striped Forceptail (Aphylla angustifolia)

The Broad-striped Forceptail has a unique appearance. Both males and females have a yellow and black striped thorax and a mainly black abdomen with yellow rings. Females are also slightly bigger. 

They prefer slow-moving or stagnant waters with rich vegetation; they occupy various regions across the Americas.

14. Common Sanddragon (Progomphus obscurus)

Common Sanddragon
Photo by Shonebrooks on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Common Sanddragon is typically dark brown to black with yellow markings. Despite its name, it can be difficult to spot because of its ability to hide in sand or mud. 

The males of the species are larger than the females, measuring up to 2 inches in length, and have a club-shaped abdomen and terminal appendages. Female Sanddragons, on the other hand, have a cylindrical abdomen and lack claspers. 

They prefer to stay low on the ground or vegetation instead of flying above the water to avoid detection.

15. Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia)

Common Whitetail
Photo by Bruce Marlin on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 (Cropped from original).

The Common Whitetail is a dragonfly species in North America. Male Common Whitetails have a chalky white or blue-white tail, which has inspired their name. Females and young males do not have this tail. However, they have pale yellow or white spots along their abdomen. Both sexes have dark brown bands on their wings that contrast beautifully against the sky.

Adult Common Whitetails feed on mosquitoes, flies, and other small insects, while their nymphs, which thrive in water, control the populations of aquatic insects, tadpoles, and small fish. They prefer still or slow-moving water bodies like ponds, lakes, and ditches. 

Interestingly, the Common Whitetail can survive in polluted waters. 

16. Globe Skimmer (Pantala flavescens

Globe Skimmer
Photo by Basile Morin on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Globe Skimmer has a pale brown body and transparent wings, with adults occasionally developing a golden shade. They are one of the most widespread dragonfly species seen around the world1. Male Globe Skimmers have a row of cells on the hind wing known as secondary genitalia, which females lack. 

Regarding habitat, these types of dragonflies prefer temporary water bodies and are often seen in rice fields and other agricultural areas.

As their name suggests, this type of dragonfly bags the record for the longest-distance insect flyer. Studies reported they could migrate for over 11,000 miles.

17. Orange Shadowdragon (Neurocordulia xanthosoma)

Orange Shadowdragons have a distinctive orange-brown color, where their name originated. Females have a less vibrant shade than males and a unique protruded lower lip that males don't. 

Primarily found in the eastern United States, their preferred habitat is shallow, oligotrophic streams and rivers where the water flow is slow to moderate.

18. Mottled Darner (Aeshna clepsydra)

Mottled Darners are notable for the stunning mottled patterns on their long, slim abdomens. Sexual dimorphism exists, with females having a larger size and broader abdomen than males. 

Residing mainly in the northern parts of North America, their habitat ranges from ponds and bogs to slow-flowing streams surrounded by dense forests.

19. Northern Emerald (Somatochlora arctica)

Northern Emerald
Photo by Piet Spaans on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 (Cropped from original).

Northern Emeralds are slender-bodied dragonflies with bright emerald green eyes and a bronze or dark brown body. Females display ovipositor, which males lack entirely. 

Originating from Scandinavia, these types of dragonflies are seen in many parts of Northern Europe and North America. They are typically found in acidic water bodies with abundant floating vegetation.

20. Clubtail Dragonfly (Gomphus)

Clubtail Dragonfly
Photo by Aneesh15 on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

Clubtails are distinctive for their enlarged club-like tail end. Within this species, sexual dimorphism is evident in size, with females being generally larger than their male counterparts. 

Widespread globally, they are primarily found near rivers and streams, as well as occasionally around lakes and near water-filled ditches.

1

Hobson, K. A., Anderson, R. C., Soto, D. X., & Wassenaar, L. I. (2012). Isotopic Evidence That Dragonflies (Pantala flavescens) Migrating through the Maldives Come from the Northern Indian Subcontinent. PLOS ONE, 7(12), e52594.

2

Kohli, M., Letsch, H., Greve, C., Béthoux, O., Deregnaucourt, I., Liu, S., Zhou, X., Donath, A., Mayer, C., Podsiadłowski, L., Gunkel, S., Machida, R., Niehuis, O., Rust, J., Wappler, T., Xin, Y., Misof, B., & Ware, J. L. (2021). Evolutionary history and divergence times of Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) revealed through transcriptomics. iScience, 24(11), 103324.

By Mike Gomez, BA.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo by Varun Raghav on Unsplash.
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