I also found this in school with some students. We’d like to know what it is as well. Thanks!
This is a damselfly! They are very closely related to dragonflies (order Odonata), and are different in that they have a thinner abdomen and hold their wings differently. They fly very fast, and are very effective predators–they eat things like flies and small bugs, often while they are still flying! They are so busy zooming around that it’s not common to get one to land on you, so congratulations for your student (I assume?) on meeting one!
More specifically, this is a Narrow-wing Damselfly (also called Pond Damselfly), which is Family Coenagrionidae. Here is a little more information about them (and lots of pictures!) on Bugguide [link]. Their site is a little weird–this is the link to the “info” page. Towards the top, you will see tabs that say “Browse,” “Info,” “Images,” etc. If you click “Browse,” it will take you to a list view that shows the subgroups and a handful of random photos. You can click on the subgroup names and get more specific. If you click on “Photos,” it will take you to all of the photos people have submitted to the guide. It’s a great resource!
Another great resources is iNaturalist. Here is their page for Narrow-wing Damselflies [link]. Bugguide is limited to America north of Mexico, but iNaturalist contains user-submitted images from all over the world. You can filter to show only species that occur in your region. Also, if you create an account and add your own photos, their ID tool will try to identify the species for you when you upload. It’s a lot of fun! And when you upload, you can keep track of all the things you’ve seen, plus your photos are available for other people to see when they are doing research.
This is a fun “interactive” key for identifying Odonates [link]. It doesn’t include ALL the species possible, but it will help you see which parts of the insect you should look at to identify them. It’s good for narrowing your search down if you are stuck!
Here are a few Narrow-wing Damselflies I have seen in Texas. The names are links leading to my observation pages on iNaturalist:
Usually the really colorful ones are males. The females tend to be brown or less vibrantly colored. Sometimes it can be hard to identify the females, but if you manage to catch a mating pair (bottom) you will be able to see the differences more closely. Top: A female Dancer. Dancers have very long spines on their legs. Take a look at hers! Bottom: The mating pair are Double Striped Bluets. The male will place his sperm in a pocket in his thorax, and he will hold onto the female by her neck (they can fly like this!). The female will then place the tip of her abdomen into the male’s pocket to collect the sperm and fertilize her eggs. They end up looking like a heart!
Because the immature Damselflies grow up in the water (just like Dragonflies), the females will lay their eggs in the water. I managed to catch this pair laying eggs! [link].
Dragonflies and Damselflies don’t have larvae (like mosquitoes do), they have nymphs, also called “naiads,” which look similar to the adults, except they have no wings. They are also predators in the water, and will eat things like mosquito larvae. Here’s one I saw in a pond [link]:
I don’t know too much about Damselfly anatomy, but I think those little tails might be gills.
There are lots of other types of Damselflies besides the Narrow-winged Damselflies. Here are a couple others I have seen!
Great Spreadwing. These Damselflies hold their wings out open instead of together like most other Damselflies do, so it can be easy to mistake them as Dragonflies. But remember that Damselflies are much thinner, and you will be able to tell them apart from Dragonflies! These are two different individuals. Observation for the Left one is here [link], and the right one is here [link].
Thank you for sharing your photo with me! I hope you learned some fun things about Damselflies!
July 9, 2018
All photos except submission are mine and show Damselflies seen in Texas!