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Identification of Dragonflies


The dragonflies include the largest insects found in Britain. This is not intended as a comprehensive guide to dragonflies, however, as one of the most primitive of insect groups they all bear two pairs of membraneous, usually transparent, highly veined wings. The thorax is short and compact, whilst the abdomen is long and thin, although somewhat flattened and broader in some groups.

Dragonflies can be distinguished from damselflies by several fairly constant differences:

  • At rest, dragonflies hold their wings out flat, whilst damselflies fold them along the abdomen
  • The two pairs of wings are similar in damselflies, but in dragonflies, the hind pair is usually shorter and broader
  • Dragonflies have large eyes which usually meet on the top of the head, damselflies' eyes are widely separated
  • Most dragonflies are larger than damselflies, whilst damselflies often look more 'dainty'

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