It can be intimidating to jump into a new unknown group of species, but with the Dragonfly ID app, and some good guides, you should be off to a great start. Check out the links below for some great guides to get you started on the path to learning about the interesting dragonflies and damselflies you encounter.
By Dennis Paulson
Princeton University Press, 576 pages
Dennis Paulson’s Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East is a great all-in-one guide to the 336 species in the eastern United States and Canada. The book contains helpful illustrations of the anatomical parts necessary for identification, in addition to large color photographs of each species. Also included is a glossary and index for quick navigation. Especially useful is the natural history section, which notes each species’ unique behavior for better identification.
By Dennis Paulson
Princeton University Press, 536 pages
The companion to the eastern edition, Dennis Paulson’s guide features all 348 species of dragonfly and damselfly west of the Mississippi River. The book contains large color photographs of both males and females for each species, in addition to the standard species description, identification tips, habitat, and range. Like the eastern version, it has a section on odes natural history, with detailed notes on the unique behavior of each species.
By John Abbott
Texas Natural History Guides
Just published in 2015, Dragonflies of Texas is the definitive field guide to these insects in Texas. It covers all 160 species with a two-page spread for each that includes photographs of both sexes and known variations when possible, key features, a distribution map, identification, discussion of similar species, status in Texas, habitat, seasonality, and general comments. In addition to the species accounts, John Abbott discusses dragonfly anatomy, life history, conservation, names, and photography. He also provides information on species that may eventually be discovered in Texas, state and global conservation rankings, seasonality of all species in chronological order, and additional resources and publications on the identification of dragonflies
By John C. Abbott
Princeton University Press, 360 pages
Dragonfly lovers of the south-central United States now have a guide all their own. This comprehensive tome includes the 263 species of dragonflies and damselflies that inhabit Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Covering more than half of North America’s species, it’s also useful outside of the south-central states. Entomologist John Abbott’s weighty guide is for serious enthusiasts, and includes a checklist, large bibliography, and helpful range maps.
By Sidney W. Dunkle
Oxford University Press, 266 pages
Getting up close to identify flighty dragonflies can be difficult, so binoculars are an indispensible tool to help pinpoint a species from afar. In addition to the standard identification information, Dragonflies through Binoculars offers advice on different types of optics, and how to best use them to identify dragonflies. Dunkle, a biologist at Collin County Community College in Texas, also includes tips on where to find dragonflies. The guide’s index doubles as a built-in checklist for enthusiasts to keep track of species they have spotted.
Blair Nikula, Jackie Sones, Donald Stokes, Lillian Stokes
Little, Brown and Company, 150 pages
Lightweight and portable, this guide can fit in a pocket or daypack for use in the field. The opening pages provide general information about dragonfly biology, and give tips on what to look for to aid identification. Species are organized into like groups, with a checklist in front to point readers in the right section. Although it doesn’t cover every species, this book is a perfect introductory guide to dragonfly and damselfly identification.
By Ed Lam
Biodiversity Books, 96 pages
If your interest extends to damsels, not dragons, Damselflies of the Northeast: A Guide to the Species of Eastern Canada & the Northeastern United States is your go-to guide. An artist and authority on odes, Ed Lam’s illustrations are both beautiful and extremely useful. Experts will enjoy the wealth of technical detail, while beginners will appreciate the tips to distinguish between similar species. Helpfully, Lam notes if a species can be identified in the field, or if capture and up-close inspection are optimal to pinpoint a species.
By Giff Beaton
University of Georgia Press, 368 pages
Covering southeastern species found north of Florida, naturalist Giff Beaton’s guide is perfect for dragonfly enthusiasts living in Georgia and neighboring states. The text covers the 150 most common species in the region, many of which are found in the Mid-Atlantic States and Florida as well. Large color photographs make for easy identification, and the guide also includes information on flight seasons, range, similar species, habitat, and behavior.
By Kathy Biggs
Azalea Creek Publishing, 128 pages
Naturalist Kathy Bigg’s beginner-friendly book covers the 113 species of dragonflies and damselflies of California. The guide features a bold line showing the length of each species, to help compare dragonflies of different sizes. Color photographs of both males and females are included. The descriptions are detailed but succinct, so it’s light enough to carry into the outdoors. Beginners will also appreciate the explanations of technical terms included in the glossary.