Dragonflies & Damselflies

Ode to Odonata

Dragonflies and damselflies are members of the insect order Odonata. Both have large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of transparent wings and elongated bodies, and both eat mosquitoes and other small insects, such as flies, bees and ants. They're usually found around lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands because their larvae, called “nymphs,” live and develop in the water. Because of this fact, they're considered "aquatic insects."

Use our dragonfly guide (PDF) to help identify them. 

Blue-Fronted Dancer Argia apicalis

Where You'll Find It

Near still and flowing waters

What It Looks Like

Small damselfly

Male: Primarily blue-black; blue abdominal segments 8 – 10; primarily blue thorax with thin black stripes; can look blue-green

Female: Brown-olive; primarily black abdomen with narrow pale dorsal stripe; black abdominal segment 9 with tan stripes on sides and top; can look multicolored


Blue-fronted dancer (male) (Argia apicalis) Image by Lee Elliott/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 


Powdered Dancer Argia moesta

Where You'll Find It

Usually near flowing water

What It Looks Like

Similar to blue-fronted dancer

Male: Powdery-white thorax with thick black shoulder stripe; powdery-white tip of abdomen

Female: Pale-brown thorax but no distinct stripes; black abdomen with wide pale top stripe; can look multicolored


Powdered dancer (male) (Argia moesta) Image by JimJohnson/CC BY-NC 4.0 


Powdered dancer (female) (Argia moesta)  Image by Kurt Andreas/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Familiar Bluet Enallagma civile

What It Looks Like

Small common damselfly

Male: Primarily light blue; blue stripe on thorax; black dorsal spots on abdominal segments 3 – 5; teardrop-shaped spots behind each eye; triangular cerci

Female: Similar to male but olive or light brown


Familiar bluet (male) (Enallagma civileImage by Tom Potterfield/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Familiar bluet (female) (Enallagma civile)  Image by Jacy Lucier/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Marsh Bluet Enallagma ebrium

What It Looks Like

Almost identical to familiar bluet though slightly smaller

Male: Slightly blacker abdomen than familiar bluet; best differentiated by shape of cerci

Female: Light green (versus olive or light-brown familiar bluet)


Marsh bluet (male) (Enallagma ebrium)  Image by Paul Bedell/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Marsh bluet (female) (Enallagma ebrium)  Image by Jacy Lucier/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Stream Bluet Enallagma exsulans

Where You'll Find It

Near streams

What It Looks Like

Male: Narrow eyespots behind eyes; narrow stripes on thorax; completely blue abdominal segment 9, other segments dorsally black and ventrally blue

Female: Pale-green thorax and abdomen; blue abdominal segment 10; mostly blue abdominal segment 9


Stream bluet (male) (Enallagma exsulans Image by Lisa Brown/CC BY-NC 2.0


Stream bluet (female) (Enallagma exsulans)  Image by Bill Carrell/CC BY-NC-ND 4.0


American Rubyspot Hetaerina americana

Where You'll Find It

Often perched near slow-moving streams

What It Looks Like

Large damselfly

Male: Distinctive dark-red spot on base of wing; metallic-red stripes on thorax

Female: Light-red spot near base of wing; not as deeply colored as male; dull-brown stripes on thorax


American rubyspot (male) (Hetaerina americanaImage by Jerry Oldenettel/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


American rubyspot (female) (Hetaerina americanaImage by Greg Lasley/CC BY-NC 4.0 


Eastern Forktail Ischnura verticalis

Where You'll Find It

Extremely common at still and flowing waters

What It Looks Like

Male: Green thorax with thick black lateral stripe; mostly black abdomen; blue final segments with lateral black spots

Female: Same color as male with more blue on final abdominal segments; immature can be orange, mature can be gray with no blue


Eastern forktail (male) (Ischnura verticalis) Image by sankax/CC BY-NC 2.0 


Eastern forktail (female) (Ischnura verticalisImage by Chris Hayes/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Ebony Jewelwing Calopteryx maculata

Where You'll Find It

Often near streams

What It Looks Like

Large damselfly

Male: Metallic blue-green bodies; distinctive all-black wings

Female: Powdery-blue-black bodies; all-black wings not as dark as male's


Ebony jewelwing (male) (Calopteryx maculata)  Image by Allen Gathman/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Ebony jewelwing (female) (Calopteryx maculataImage by Greg Lasley/CC BY-NC 4.0 


Common Green Darner Anax junius

What It Looks Like

Largest dragonfly in Illinois; common all season; often first and last observed

Male: Green thorax; light-blue abdomen; no markings on wings

Female: Green thorax; light-brown abdomen; no markings on wings


Common green darner (male) (Anax juniusImage by Greg Lasley/CC BY-NC 4.0


Common green darner (female) (Anax juniusImage by Greg Lasley/CC BY-NC 4.0


Black Saddlebags Tramea lacerata

What It Looks Like

Large dragonfly; common all season; slightly smaller than common green darner

Male: Black thorax and abdomen; large black "saddlebag" patches at base of each hind wing

Female: Black thorax; black abdomen with yellow dorsal spots; wing markings similar to male's


Black saddlebags (male) (Tramea lacerataImage by Jerry Friedman/CC BY-SA 2.0


Black saddlebags (female) (Tramea lacerataImage by Victor Fazio/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 


Twelve-Spotted Skimmer Libellula pulchella

Where You'll Find It

Common near ponds and lakes

What It Looks Like

Medium-sized dragonfly

Male: Distinctive, alternating pattern of three black and two white patches on all four wings; black tip on each wing; powdery-white or faint light-blue abdomen

Female: Wing pattern similar to male's but no white patches; yellow lateral stripes on abdomen


Twelve-spotted skimmer (male) (Libellula pulchella)  Image by Paul Bedell/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Twelve-spotted skimmer (female) (Libellula pulchella) Image by Paul Bedell/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 


Halloween Pennant Celithemis eponina

Where You'll Find It

Commonly perched near ponds and lakes

What It Looks Like

Medium-sized dragonfly

Male: Brown-rust body; amber wings with brown-rust bands

Female: Body not as deeply colored as male's; wing bands not as deeply colored as male's, sometimes yellow


Halloween pennant (male) (Celithemis eponina) Image by Ken Slade/CC BY-NC 2.0


Halloween pennant (female) (Celithemis eponinaImage by Ken Slade/CC BY-NC 2.0 


Eastern Amberwing Perithemis tenera

Where You'll Find It

Hovers over ponds

What It Looks Like

Extremely small dragonfly

Male: Solid amber wings; dull-brown or rust body

Female: Brown-amber marks on wings (versus solid amber on male's); brown body 


Eastern amberwing (male) (Perithemis teneraImage by Greg Lasley/CC BY-NC 4.0


Eastern amberwing (female) (Perithemis tenera)  Image by Ken Slade/CC BY-NC 2.0 


Blue Dasher Pachydiplax longipennis

Where You'll Find It

Commonly perched near ponds and lakes

What It Looks Like


Male: Powder-blue abdomen; black thorax with light-green lateral stripes; no wing markings

Female: Dull-brown to light-green abdomen; light-green lateral stripes on thorax; no wing markings


Blue dasher (male) (Pachydiplax longipennis) Image by Greg Lasley/CC BY-NC 4.0 


Blue dasher (female) (Pachydiplax longipennis) Image byJason Michael Crockwell/CC BY-NC-ND 4.0


Eastern Pondhawk Erythemis simplicicollis

Where You'll Find It

Commonly perched near ponds and lakes

What It Looks Like

Small to medium-sized dragonfly

Male: Powder-blue thorax and abdomen; green face; no wing markings

Female: Bright-green thorax; black dorsal stripes on bright-green abdomen; no wing markings


Eastern pondhawk (male) (Erythemis simplicicollis) Image by Ken Slade/CC BY-NC 2.0


Eastern pondhawk (female) (Erythemis simplicicollis) Image by Ken Slade/CC BY-NC 2.0


Calico Pennant Celithemis elisa

Where You'll Find It

Commonly perched near ponds and lakes

What It Looks Like

Small- to medium-sized dragonfly

Male: Black tips on all wings; small black spots and large red-black basal patches on hind wings; red-black body; red dorsal triangles on abdomen

Female: Similar to male but yellow instead of red


Calico pennant (male) (Celithemis elisa) Image by Nick Block/CC BY-NC-SA 4.0


Calico pennant (female) (Celithemis elisa) Image by Dan Mullen/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 


Widow Skimmer Libellula luctuosa

Where You'll Find It

Extremely common near ponds and lakes

What It Looks Like

Medium-sized dragonfly

Male: Large black basal patch and white distal patch on each wing; powder-blue abdomen

Female: Same basal patches as male without white distal patch; dark abdomen with yellow stripes


Widow skimmer (male) (Libellula luctuosa) Image by Greg Lasley/CC BY-NC 4.0


Widow skimmer (female) (Libellula luctuosa) Image by John Boback/CC BY-NC 4.0


Common Whitetail Libellula lydia

Where You'll Find It

Extremely common near ponds and lakes

What It Looks Like

Medium-sized dragonfly

Male: Distinctive powder-white abdomen; single black medial patch on each wing

Female: White-yellow triangular lateral patches on abdomen; black tips and patches on each wing but no white


Common whitetail (male) (Libellula lydia) Image by Greg Lasley/CC BY-NC 4.0


Common whitetail (female) (Libellula lydia) Image by Greg Lasley/CC BY-NC 4.0