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There are over 6,000 species of Dragonflies and damselflies worldwide. There are 320 species known from Australia and about 100 of these occur around Sydney.
Dragonflies and damselflies are large, conspicuous insects generally found near freshwater habitats. Dragonflies are generally more powerful fliers than damselflies and most dragonflies have large eyes that almost meet at the top of their head.
The larvae are aquatic or semi-aquatic and are known as mud-eyes. Both adults and larvae are predatory. Adults are often found close to water, where they hunt flying insects. Adults' legs point forward, forming a basket to capture prey in mid-flight.
Damselflies often rest with their wings folded along their backs. Dragonflies usually rest with their wings held straight out from their body.
One species that lived around 250 million years ago was the largest insect known to exist and had a wingspan of over 70 cm. Their success as a group is largely because of their fantastic flying abilities and their well-developed eyes. They are excellent hunters of other flying insects and can hover, move in zigzags, and even fly backwards. And they are fast - some of the larger dragonflies can reach flying speeds of 70 km per hour - possibly the fastest flying insects on Earth. Many people find their size and speed intimidating but, despite their powerful jaws, they are harmless. In fact, they do us a favour by eating many insects that bite us