Mayflies, Dragonflies and Damselflies

The photo album contains two galleries of extant ancient, winged insects (Palaeoptera). The first gallery displays portrait images of mayflies placed in Ephemeroptera and dragonflies that belong in Odonata. The next features portrait and behaviour photos of damselflies also part of Odonata. I photographed all the species in their natural habitats. See Taxonomy note at the end of this page.

Mayflies and Dragonflies

Mayfly Notes

Mayflies have four stages to their lifecycle: egg, nymph, sub-imago and imago (adult) and spend almost all their life in the first three stages. Depending on species this can range from a few weeks to a couple of years. Adults do not feed and have short lives most live for one to two days but some last only for around two hours while others live as long fourteen days. Males swarm just above water and females fly into the swarm to mate. After mating, the females drop to water to lay their eggs while the males fly off to the land to die.

The mayfly photo displayed in the gallery is probably a male that landed on a watermill window to die.

Dragonfly Notes

Dragonflies (Anisoptera) the suborder name means unequal winged because their hindwings are usually shorter and broader than their forewings. They have a three-stage life cycle, unlike other insects they do not have a pupal stage; instead, they transition straight from a larva to an adult during the lavas final molt. The time from egg to death is about six months, although some larger dragonflies take six or seven years. They spend most of their life as a larva in freshwater habitat. Free-flying adults live for around four months. Adults are strong-flying insects often found away from water.



Damselfly Notes

Damselflies (Zygoptera) the suborder name means pair or equal winged; all wings are of a similar shape and size. At rest, most species fold their wings back along their abdomen and have separated eyes. They have the same three-stage life cycle as dragonflies and spend most of their lives as larvae in freshwater habitat. Unlike dragonflies, they are weak fliers and do not stray from water margins or surface. They are smaller than dragonflies, and as free-flying adults only live for a couple of weeks.

Mayflies, Dragonflies and Damselflies Taxonomy

The Insects Photo Album webpage describes the higher-level taxonomy for the featured families placed in Ephemeroptera (Mayflies) and Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies).

Ephemeroptera (Mayflies) contain over 2,000 named species and are probably the oldest and most primitive of the extant ancient, winged insects. Fossil records date back to Carboniferous and possibly Devonian period. There are over 40 families.

Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies) contain over 6,000 Odonata species with about half placed in Anisoptera (Dragonflies) and the other half in Zygoptera (Damselflies). They are less primitive than mayflies with fossil records dating back to the Carboniferous period.

Dragonflies feature photos of species from two families placed in the suborder Anisoptera:
(a) Libellulidae (Skimmers),
(b) Aeshnidae (Darners).
The Damselflies displayed images include three families placed in suborder Zygoptera:
(a) Coenagrionidae (Forktails),
(b) Calopterygidae (Broad-winged Damsels),
(c) Lestidae (Spreadwings).