Damselfly (Zygoptera) 


In Greek mythology, Naiads are nymphs who live around fresh water like rivers, streams, fountains, ponds, marshes, and lakes.  Each type of fresh water has its own Naiad; for example, Limnades is the lake Naiad, and Pegaeae is the springs Naiad.  The Naiad's existence depended on the body of water because she was intimately connected to it.  Ancient Greeks often worshiped the Naiads because they symbolized fertility and growth because the waters where they lived were thought to have inspirational, medicinal, and prophetic powers. 

Although Naiads in Greek mythology are women, they are similar to the damselfly naiads.  Can you spot the similarities?

Fish love to eat naiads and damselfly adults, so fishermen use lures that look and move like naiads in the water to catch fish.  There are also lures that fly like adult damselflies!

Damselfly ancestors date back to Carboniferous times; this means that these ancestors lived more that 300 million years ago!  This is over 100 millions years older than dinosaurs and 150 million years older than birds!

A cult in Scandinavia worships damselflies because they believe damselflies are love goddesses. 

People in Indonesia, Africa, and South America fry and eat damselflies in soups.

In China and Japan, people believe damselflies are holy creatures with medicinal properties.  People there use the species Sympetrum frequens to reduce fevers.

Damselflies are widely used in superstitions, and as a result, there are over 150 common names for odonata in Germany, including "water witch" and "goddess' horse."

Once dropped in a container, a damselfly naiad can remove up to 90% of the mosquito larvae in the container.

The following fun facts are from the O. Orkin Insect Zoo at Mississippi State University.

Prehistoric odonata had wingspans up to 30 inches (72cm) and were almost 18 inches (46cm) long!

The Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona has several prehistoric odonata models hanging in the dining area.

Damselflies' two pairs of wings move independently, allowing them to fly backwards or forwards, hover, and do tricks.

It takes less than three one-hundredths of a second for a naiad to shoot out its labium to catch prey.

Megaloprepus coerulatus is the largest damselfly with a wingspan up to 7 inches (18cm).  You can find this species in Central and South America.

Ready for a little relaxation after learning so much?  Print some coloring pages of damselflies while you let the information sink in.