Dragonfly & Damselfly > Blue SKimmer (Orthetrum caledonicum) | Scarlet Percher (Diplacodes haematodes)

The dragonfly and damselfly are not the same insects, but they are related. Both belong to the order Odonata, that is an order of flying insects that includes the commonly named dragonflies (suborder Anisoptera) and damselflies (suborder Zygoptera). Within these suborders, there are more species of dragonflies than damselflies.

These two common groups are distinguished with the dragonflies, placed in the suborder Epiprocta, being usually larger, with eyes together and wings that are up or out at rest, whilst damselflies, suborder Zygoptera, are usually smaller with eyes placed apart and wings along body when at rest.

Scarlet Percher (Diplacodes haematodes), Alice Springs, NT
Scarlet Percher (Diplacodes haematodes), Alice Springs, NT
Dragonfly nymph, Simpsons Gap, NT
Dragonfly nymph, Simpsons Gap, NT

Pruinescence
is a condition where a “bloom” appears on an insects cuticle, caused by wax particles that often masks the underlying colouration of the insect, giving it a dusty or frosted appearance.

This pruinescence is commonly white to pale blue in colour,m although it can be grey, pink, purple or red. The colours may be produced by Tyndall scattering of light. When pale in colour, pruinescence often strongly reflects ultraviolet.

This condition appears in many species of Odonata, particularly damselflies of the families Lestidae and Coenagrionidae, where it occurs on the wings and body. Among true dragonflies it is most common on male Libellulidae (skimmers).1

The chalky blue colour in the following male dragonfly is due to pruinescence. The adult males become more blue over time.

Blue Skimmer (Orthetrum caledonicum), Alice Springs, NT
Blue Skimmer (Orthetrum caledonicum), Alice Springs, NT

Did you know that in some cultures and beliefs, that it is considered lucky if a dragonfly lands on you, especially on your head.


  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Subclass: Pterygota
  • Division: Palaeoptera
  • Superorder: Odonatoptera
  • (unranked): Holodonata
  • Order: Odonata
  • Suborders:
    • Epiprocta
      • Anisozygoptera
      • Anisoptera
    • Zygoptera

Footnote & References

  1. Pruinescence, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pruinescence (last visited Feb. 25, 2022)