Skip Navigation LinksOdes For Beginners : Identifying Odonates : ID 101 : Damselfy ID : Size

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Damselfly Size

Damselflies in North America don't vary in size as much as dragonflies, varying from about 1 inch to a little over 2 inches in length.  Correctly estimating the size is important in identification but can be tricky.  Some books express length in inches, others in millimeters, and some use both.  Length refers to the measurement from the "nose" to the "tail tip." 

Actual size on a monitor can vary but the size difference between the American Rubyspot and the Sedge Sprite is accurately represented in this composite.

How do you know the exact size of the Damsel you are looking at?  If you are holding it, it's pretty easy to measure it, but when you are watching a free-flying Ode, it can be pretty hard to figure out.

Comparison to other odes may be the easiest.  Once you know 1 or 2 species, compare your unknown bug to others nearby.  When you have been watching Familiar Bluets, a Skimming Bluet will look tiny.

Many field guides and manuals include the size.  But converting from millimeters to inches and back can make you crazy. Some guides go a bit further and include a ruler printed along the cover.  A few even use bars or lines to indicate the actual length of the insect.  These are great if you are holding the insect but can also help give a visual impression of the length.

Remember that the lengths printed are estimates of the average damselfly or ranges of size.  In general, females are larger than males although there are exceptions. Also species may have very large and very small individuals. 

For very precise measurements in-hand, you may need to purchase calipers.  These can be necessary for serious students who need to measure the exact width of an abdomen or length of claspers.  See our equipment section for some help with this.

© 2020 Sheryl Chacon Search