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Damsel and Prey – the Narrow-Winged Damselfly

14 May
A damselfly with captured leafhopper.

A damselfly with captured leafhopper.

Found this damselfly in Argentina, munching on a tiny leafhopper.

Damselflies (Odonata, suborder Zygoptera:  “paired wings”) can be distinguished from dragonflies by the shape of their hind wings, which are similar to their forewings, narrowing at the base like a petal.  Dragonflies (Odonata, suborder Anisoptera: “unequal wings”) have a hind wing with a broad, lobed base.  Additionally, as their names would suggest, dragonflies tend to be larger, and thick-bodied, while damselflies and small and slender.

Both dragonflies and damselflies are agile predators, snatching flying prey out of the air.  Damselflies have a special adaptation for this.  They use their forward angled legs to form a ‘basket’.  Long bristles on the legs complete this structure, allowing the damselfly to sieve prey from the air.  Once caught in the ‘basket,’ the prey is then transferred to the jaws of the damselfly.  In this case, the damselfly has caught a leafhopper, family Cicadellidae.  A close look will reveal that this family tends to resemble tiny hopping cicadas, a relative in the hemipteran suborder Auchenorrhyncha.