Adult damselflies have very slender, elongated abdomens, delicate bodies, and 2 pairs of wings that are typically held together over the body. The wings are membranous and elaborately veined. The hindwing is about the same size and shape as the forewing. The eyes are compound, large, but usually do not touch. The antennae are short. The 6 legs are poor for walking but good for perching. Many damselflies have brilliant, gemlike colors.
Larvae (nymphs) are aquatic, slender, usually drab insects with 6 legs and with small wing buds on the back of the thorax. The 3 gills are leaflike and positioned like “tails” at the tip of the abdomen (unlike the gills of the related dragonflies, which are hidden within the tip of the abdomen).
To distinguish between the many types of damselflies, one must usually examine details of wing vein patterns as well as colors and markings on wings and body. Males and females often have different colors and markings.