Damselflies are insects in the sub-order Zygoptera (meaning "paired-wings"). All four wings are near enough equal in size and shape. They are usually small, weakly flying insects that stay close to the water margins or water surface. When at rest, most species hold their wings along the length of their abdomen. The Emerald Damselflies are an exception and usually hold their wings partly open when at rest. They are therefore known as Spreadwings in North America. The eyes are always separated, never touching. The larvae have external plates (lamellae) at the end of the abdomen, which act as accessory gills.
The labelled diagram below may help to define the various anatomical terms used in the descriptions in the species pages.
In Great Britain and Ireland there are about 20 species that may be encountered and a few that are now extinct. These species fall into 4 families and 9 genera. A partial taxonomic "tree" for the damselflies is shown below.
Click on images to enlarge.