Dragonflies and and their close relatives, damselflies, are insects of the order Odonata. These carnivorous (animal-eating) insects have large compound eyes, two pairs of wings and legs that can capture smaller insects. Dragonflies hold their wings straight out to their sides when they are at rest, while damselflies keep their wings folded behind their backs. There are around 5,000 species of dragonflies worldwide.
There is currently no state dragonfly for North Carolina. The Edmunds’ Snaketail Dragonfly and Bell’s Sanddragon Dragonfly are both species of Special Concern in North Carolina.
Dragonfly Fun Fact
Super-sized dragonflies once shared the Earth with dinosaurs! These insects first occurred over 325 million years ago. Some fossils reveal these ancient dragonflies had wingspans of over 2 ½ feet long, about the size of an American crow!
More Dragonfly Tips
Click on the resources below to learn more about dragonflies and their close relatives, damselflies.
- Make Six Shares of Dragonfly Species. Include “Dragonfly Badge” in the comments section when you submit each share. You cannot share an image of the same dragonfly species more than two times (for example, you can upload only two images of common whitetail dragonflies).
- View the Video of Chris Goforth, Entomology Science Mentor. What species of dragonfly would you like to study? Learn about one dragonfly and create a drawing or painting of it in its habitat. Take a photo or scan of your artwork and send it to [email protected] We’ll share your drawing with Chris!
- Complete ONE of the following:
- Participate in the Dragonfly Detectives Project, a program of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. In doing so you will:
- Attend a guided Dragonfly Detectives Workshop (check the program schedule for details).
- Visit a study site three times and collect weather data as well as dragonfly data following the methods you will learn in the Dragonfly Detectives Workshop.
- Submit your data by emailing [email protected]
Visit a pond or stream where you have seen dragonflies visit and do the following:
- Draw a map of the pond or stream, and spend some time watching the dragonflies. Do the dragonflies seem to stay in the same place, or visit the same logs or sticks over and over again? Draw these “territories” on your map.
- Record the date as well as the time you start and the time you end.
- Make another two visits to the site and make a new map each time.
- Email your maps and a few sentences about what you observed to [email protected]
Chris Goforth is the Head of Citizen Science at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences and works to get people throughout North Carolina involved in authentic scientific research. She currently heads several citizen science projects, including the Dragonfly Swarm Project and Dragonfly Detectives, both of which focus on observing and reporting dragonfly behaviors. Chris holds a master’s degree in entomology from the University of Arizona and has published her work with dragonfly flight behaviors and giant water bug parental care. She also has extensive experience using aquatic insects to study water quality and co-authored several reports for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality about the impacts of impaired habitats on aquatic insect populations throughout Arizona.