San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Field Guide

Order: Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies)


More than sixty species of dragonflies have been identified in California. They range in size from 1 inch to 4.5 inches in length. The male of the majority of the species of dragonflies is generally more colorful and streamlined. The female tends to have a stouter abdomen and the colors are duller. Dragonflies perch with their wings in an open, flat position.

Range and Habitat

Because they need water for reproduction, dragonflies are most often found near water, including ponds, lakes, marshes, streams and rivers.

Natural History

Dragonflies prey upon flying insects such as mosquitoes and gnats. Some species prey on honey bees, bumblebees and other dragonflies. Prey is typically seized mid-air with biting mouthparts, but they will not usually bite humans unless handled. Dragonflies have a flying season of spring and summer. The earliest dragonflies appeared over 300 million years ago.

Flame Skimmer.  Photo by Bob Parks.

Blue-Ringed Dancer.  Photo by Bob Parks.

Text by Connie Gatlin
Top photo: Flame Skimmer (male), Libellula saturata, © Bob Parks.
Bottom photo: Blue-Ringed Dancer (male), Argia sedula, © Bob Parks

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