High Park’s ponds, creeks and wetlands make it an attractive habitat for many kinds of dragonflies and damselflies. At least 52 species have been recorded here. With ongoing restoration, some species that were absent for a number of years are reappearing, while some new species have been observed.
Not a fly Dragonflies and damselflies are insects. They belong to the order Odonata and can be called odonates or “odes” for short. They are not related to flies like the common house fly, except that they are all insects. Dragonflies and damselflies do not harm people - they do not bite or sting.
Dragonfly or Damselfly? Dragonflies, in general, are larger and more robust than damselflies. Dragonflies hold their wings out to the side when at rest, while damselflies usually fold their wings up over their back when at rest. (Spreadwing damselflies may hold their wings open partway or fold them over their backs.) In true dragonflies the head is rounded and the compound eyes touch each other at the top (except in one family). In damselflies, the head is wide, almost dumbbell-shaped. The space between the compound eyes is wider than the eye itself.
Life cycle Dragonflies and damselflies commonly lay their eggs on or near water. They spend most of their life living in the water as a wingless larva known as a "nymph". When they are ready to change into adults, the larva climbs out of the water and attaches to a stalk or other surface, then transforms into the winged adult. The adult lives a few weeks and mates in order to start the cycle over again.
Food Dragonfly and damselfly nymphs are all predators that feed on small organisms, including mosquito larvae in their water habitat. (These nymphs also provide food for fish.) The air-borne adults eat other insects such as mosquitoes, gnats, ants and even butterflies, spiders and other odonates.
Amazing flyers Dragonflies are very strong flyers. They catch their prey in flight. They can fly like a helicopter, moving in all directions, forward, backward, up and down. They can also hover.
Eyesight Sight is the dragonfly's most important sense. The compound eyes of a dragonfly are huge compared with the size of its head. Each compound eye can contain up to 30,000 tiny lenses. Compound eyes are very good at detecting motion.
For more information about dragonfly biology, etc.: Dragonflies of Manitoba website
Common Green Darner (male)
Blue Dasher (male)
North American Odonata. (February, 2011). Dragonfly Society of the Americas. Retrieved on April 20,2011, from website
Dunkle, Sidney W. (2000). Dragonflies Through Binoculars. Oxford University Press.
Mitchell, Forrest L., & James L. Lasswell (2005).A Dazzle of Dragonflies. College Station: Texas A&M, University Press.
Ontario Odonata. (May, 2001). Toronto Entomologists’ Association. Toronto: Toronto Entomologists’ Association.
Garrison, Rosser W. (2006). Dragonfly Genera of the New World: an illustrated and annotated key to the Anisopera. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.