A Damsel Not in Distress

Jun 24, 2009

They're as long and thin as darning needles. And, sometimes they’re as difficult to find as a needle in the proverbial haystack.

These slender, frail-looking insects (below) are damselflies. They fly around ponds and streams and perch on plants near the shoreline.  As adults, they prey on flying insects such as mosquitoes and gnats, and in turn, they're preyed upon by dragonflies, other insects, and birds. Occasionally a spider snares one in its web.

Anglers consider them good luck, especially when these brightly colored insects touch down on their fishing lines.

Like dragonflies, damselflies are members of the Odonata order. Their suborder is Zygoptera--in case anybody asks!

Retired entomologist Jerry Powell of UC Berkeley estimates California has about 40 species of damseslflies. 

I saw one damselfly, probably the common bluet, checking out our backyard fish pond last weekend before perching on a  tower-of -jewels leaf. 


Another one was flitting about the Yolo Causeway last year while a UC Davis researcher was trapping mosquitoes.

Another skeeter-catcher.

Neither looked like a damsel in distress. In fact, they looked quite predaceous.

Especially to skeeters.

By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

Attached Images:

A DAMSELFLY, probably a bluet, perches on a tower of jewels, a bee-friendly plant. Now it's a damselfly-friendly plant. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)


LONG AND THIN, a damselfly looks somewhat like a darning needle. This one was at the Yolo Causeway last year. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Long and Thin