....for South Wales Dragonfly enthusiasts
Damselflies this page - Dragonflies on Page One and Page Two
The following damselfly and dragonfly species have been recorded from Gwent/Monmouthshire and also the area of Glamorgan that this website covers. Simply left click on any image to see a better quality larger version of the image appear in a new window.
Where possible I have included photographs of both male and female, many species change appearance dramatically from their early stages to maturity and further study using one of the recommended fieldguides will help you better understand these changes and can save much confusion and aid correct identification.
Beautiful Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo
Flight season is late April through to early September
Generally favours fast flowing streams and rivers with gravel or silt beds without pollution. Enjoys dappled shade more so than its near relative the Banded Demoiselle, but needs full sun without too much bankside tree shading.
Often found early in the season along with the Large Red Damselfly. The female is quite similar to the Banded Demoiselle female, but on closer inspection has broader wings suffused with a brown tint. Both Demoiselle species have pseudo pterostigma which is hardly noticeable without close inspection, however both species will often tolerate close up inspection.
I have seen both male and female Beautiful Demoiselle in the most unexpected places, often considerable distances from suitable breeding habitat, I've even had a female visit my garden. The females are often found away from water unless laying eggs (up to 300 are laid) or looking for a mate. I'm probably asked more about this damselfly than any other, it's stunning appearance can stop most observers in their tracks and then they want to know more about it.
Male Beautiful Demoiselle are told apart
from the male Banded Demoiselle by virtue of the entire wing being blackish-brown. It's wings are also darker than the females.
The male is territorial, but not as aggressive as the Banded Demoiselle. It often appears to 'stand' on a favourite perch, if disturbed it will more often than not return.
Demoiselle are quite tolerant of human observers, on the River Usk I have counted literally hundreds perched up on the invasive Himalayan Balsam along the banks, it appears the insect likes the plant far more than we do!!!
Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens
Flight season early May lasting to early September
Slowly flowing streams, rivers and canals are the preferred choice of habitat for the Banded Demoiselle providing there is muddy sediment. It's often found in meadows near an open bankside in company with Beautiful Demoiselle but only if there are gravel or pebble areas suitable for the latter species.
Females have narrower and more greenish wings than their near relative the Banded Demoiselle, but both species need unpolluted water for breeding.
Be aware of the small white wing patches that are known as pseudo-pterostigma.
The Demoiselle are Britain's largest damselfly species, both Banded and Beautiful Demoiselle are almost 50mm in body length and the hindwings can be as much as 35mm. The courtship display of the male Banded Demoiselle is most interesting, he appears to be a real 'show off' displaying his superb wings by flicking them open and performing almost an aerial ballet. The mating displays are often performed in areas of dense herbage, such as nettle beds or the like.
Male Banded Demoiselle defend their small patch of territory with vigour against all encroaching males, they can appear almost vindictive.
Unmistakable with it's electric blue-green metallic body and bluish-black wing patches, the male cannot be confused with any other British damselfly. This stunning insect can be found in good numbers where habitat requirements are to it's liking.
Very happy to allow close up observation, photographs can prove reasonably easy to obtain with a 'softly-softly' approach.
Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa
Flight season is early or mid May up to early October
The Emerald Damselfly is unlike any other British damselfly species with it's habit of very often perching with wings held half open, the wings often appear weak and the insect rarely seems to go far when disturbed, displaying a rather jerky flight pattern.
Females are duller than the males and have brown eyes whereas the males are blue. It also sports brown on the thorax and abdomen while the male is blue. The females abdomen is decidedly thicker than the males, note also that the ovipositor (at the tip of the abdomen) is clearly visible. Both sexes can take up to two weeks to fully mature.
The beautiful looking Emerald Damselfly is often found in areas that have acidic bog pools and there are many such pools to be found on the upland areas of South Wales, nevertheless it can also tolerate far more brackish water conditions and is also encountered on our coastal plains. Ponds, canals and lake margins are also favoured providing there is plenty of plant cover, rushes and reeds are often highly prized habitat by Emerald Damselfly. The species is not as common as some of the 'blue' species but is still not uncommon within the region.
To the right is a male Emerald Damselfly in the classic perching mode it's wings held half open, note also the two powder blue segments at the end of the abdomen and the anal appendages at the insects tip. The clearly displayed pterostigma (wing spots) are relatively narrow and go from an initial pale shade of brown to a far darker colour brown as the insect matures.
The thorax is a superb metallic green in the adult stage while the abdominal segments near to the thorax are a beautiful powder blue colour. In my experience the males eyes don't always appear quite as blue as the guide books tell you, it can often be down to how the light reflects on them.
Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula
Flight season is early April into September
The female Large Red Damselfly exists in three distinct forms; typica (see image on left), then we have fulvipes a form that has more black on the abdomen, and finally melanotum a form that is generally black. This can often prove rather complicated and is the perfect reason to invest in a good fieldguide and do some homework.
I have encountered all three forms together on sheltered hedgerows in the spring and have taken the opportunity provided to compare the differences in detail, with practice it all becomes less confusing...I think!!!
Be assured that spring has truly arrived when this beauty is first seen, Large Red Damselfly is the first of our native British species on the wing. Ponds, pools, canals as well as ditches and acid bogs are the more favoured haunts of the species, but it is also encountered 'sunbathing' on brambles, herbage and hedges a little way from it's usual habitat.
I happen to believe that Large Red Damselfly are often (rather unfortunately) a favourite prey item of the fearsome Emperor Dragonfly, often to the exclusion of all other damselflies within the predators hunting area.
The male Large Red Damselfly is predominantly red and has just a few of it's extreme abdominal segments partially black, the legs of the species are black and this is a distinct ID feature that removes confusion with the much smaller and rarer Small Red Damselfly.
Males are known to emerge slightly in advance of females and are usually in far greater numbers, they mature after twelve days or so, this is about four days before the females.
Large Red Damselfly males are very aggresive and I've watched them driving off just about anything that comes into their territory, on one occasion I saw a Small White butterfly chased away, you simply have to admire the insects pluck...I do believe they concede ground when it comes to the larger dragonflies though!!!
I've found Large Red to be most accomodating when it comes to photographs, they often remain perfectly still and I remember thinking 'do these critters realise how much they stand out' red after all is not actually the best of colours for any type of camouflage effect.
White-legged Damselfly Platycnemis pennipes
Flight season early May to late August
If there is anything that causes confusion with damselfly identification it has to be the stages of colour changes the insects go through from immature to mature adults. On the left we see an image of an immature female White-legged Damselfly, at this stage they are often referred to as the form lactea when they appear a creamy colour with just a few black abdomen markings, as they mature they will turn a rather weak or washed out shade of yellowish-green with slightly stronger black segmental joint markings. The tibia on the female is not as thick as that of the male and are always white, on closer inspection they appear feathery.
In our Dragonfly-Days area the White-legged Damselfly has a rather locally uncommon status on just a few of our slow flowing rivers, the Rivers Usk and Wye in Monmouthshire are typical of the type of waters that this unobtrusive species needs. On creation of this website in 2008 the species had not been recorded in Glamorgan, however I understand that it has since been recorded from the north of the county, this information was provided by data held on the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
Interestingly apart from the demoiselle the White-legged Damselfly is the only British damselfly that have a courting display, the male flutters in front of the female dangling it's white hair covered legs (real sexy stuff eh!) and if receptive she will succumb to mating, the eggs being laid while the insects are in tandem, this provides the male with assurance that his sperm has been used rather than a rivals.
Note the clearly defined pale brown wing spots on the adult male seen on the right. Males are a diffused blue in colour with distinct black markings, the eyes are deep blue.
Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella
Flight season is early May often into late September
90% of female Azure Damselflies are green, so its rather confusing to describe them as azure, the remainder are blue and often mistaken for males, here in lies just one of the reasons why species such as the blue damsels cause such confusion, especially to the novice. Differences for ID purposes are to be found in the colours on the distinctly different abdominal segments, and this is just one of the species that will benefit the student by careful perusal of one of our recommended fieldguides which are to be found in the books section.
Common throughout the region the Azure Damselfly is a species that seems to prefer the smaller ponds and pools that are preferably sheltered by lots of foliage, it can also be found in wet meadows and mature rough grasslands. This beautiful blue damselfly is also a great reason to dig a garden pond, it really does seem to have a genuine fondness for ornamental ponds and so much the better if its a wildlife pond that's devoid of fish, which would naturally eat them or their larvae.
Azure can often be confused with their near coenagrion cousin the much less common Variable Damselfly, learning to tell the difference is just one of the many reasons why the study of odonates is so fascinating and can become rather addictive.
The Azure Damselfly is the 'bluest' of all our damselflies and are often the subject of an observers delight when seen at their peak in mid summer. Males are not territorial and seem to like flying close to the water surface never too far from a suitable perch, here they can keep a close watch for females, when successful copulation can take up to thirty minutes, usually during warm sunny days.
Research suggests the average life span of an adult Azure Damselfly is a mere five and a half days!!!
Variable Damselfly Coenagrion pulchellum
Flight season is early May extending into August
In 2008 I wrote about this enigmatic insect that I had no photograph of the species available, the reason was quite simple I had never seen one in South Wales!!!
Since that sad admission I have worked hard and also had to search for information on where the insect could possibly be found, having followed up a few leads I have at last located them both in Monmouthshire and near Llangors Lake in the Brecon Beacons. It was always hard to understand why a species that is reasonably common just across the Severn on the Somerset Levels was so hard to find or even absent on the equally suitable Gwent Levels.
Being so similar to Azure Damselfly they need close scrutiny before confirming identification, one of the problems I faced when searching for this damselfly in Monmouthshire has been attempting to get permission from the persons who owned the land, several times I failed to get permission or the owners were unavailable.
The descriptive name variable does little in way of helping differentiate the varying patterns on the blue damselflies, it only reinforces the suggestion that I constantly mention about dragonfly ID, get a good fieldguide and take it out with you on your own Dragonfly-Days, of course the alternative is to obtain a really good photo so that you can study it at your leisure or ask advice from either your county dragonfly recorder or someone with experience.
Variable Damselflies appear to be susceptable to any type of dredging or habitat disturbance on a frequent rota, this is a regular occurance on the reens on the Gwent Levels and may provide a clue to their absence on what otherwise is suitable water.
The species seem to enjoy much the same conditions as the commoner Azure Damselfly, and the few I've positively identified (sometimes from the other side of a fence!) have been resting either on nettles or dense herbage.
When disturbed they don't fly too far before perching up again on similar foliage and more often than not facing in the same directional aspect as the one they were disturbed from, obviously taking advantage of any warmth they can. I don't think damselflies enjoy more than a breeze, but Variable Damselfly in particular seem to hate any wind and always seek the best shelter that's available away from the wind, so it could prove worthwhile searching out such cover carefully for sheltering insects.
Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum
Flight season is late April to early October
The regions most common damselfly and a species that can be found in a great variety of habitats; ponds, pools, lakes, canals, slow flowing rivers and streams can all support this wonderfully coloured insect and neither acidic or alkaline conditions seem to deter them.
Common Blue Damselflies seem to enjoy water cover to fly out over and rest upon, water lilies are a great favourite. When the weather conditions turn cool or windy they seek tall grasses for shelter and I have disturbed them (along with Azure) in countless numbers when walking slowly through such grasses near their watery habitat.
The photograph shows the blue male holding the female by the neck with it's anal claspers while copulation takes place, this can last for upto 30 minutes.
The male accompanies the female to the place where ovipositing (egg-laying) occurs.
In Steve Brooks superb book The Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland there are many excellent detailed accounts of the whole life cycle involved in mating, oviposition and general ecology that I can heartily recommend to anyone who wants to know more about the fascinating life cycle of the odonata. Because the Common Blue Damselfly is such a 'convenient' species to study it may prove beneficial to the new dragonfly enthusiast to spend time watching the CBD and how it goes about the business of life!!!
Sadly the cycle of life involves death and the image on the right graphically illustrates that danger often awaits the unwary, this mating couple were so intent on carrying out what nature intended that the male flew into a spiders web with the female attached in copulation, I watched as the movement upon the web indicated to the spider that dinner had arrived, the more the poor male struggled the more entangled the pair became and here you see the spider about to perform the 'coup de grace'.
Nature proves a cruel master, yet we simply have to accept it, we are after all, very much a part of it.
Blue-tailed Damselfly Ishnura elegans
Flight season is early May well into September
Now its not my intention to cause confusion, but I have to tell you here that the Blue-tailed Damselfly has 5 different female colour forms. They are named as follows:-
f.typica, f.violacea, f.infuscans, f.rufescens and f.rufescens-obsoleta, I have no intention of trying to describe them all here, suffice to say that it will all become clear once you have studied your fieldguide...at least I hope!!!
These female forms probably have even experienced dragonfly enthusiasts scratching their heads, especially when they congregate with their near relatives the Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly, then you have the latters forms to ID as well, eventually all becomes clearer.
The Blue-tailed Damselfly is among the most abundant of the damselfly species, it can be found throughout the region in a wide range of different habitats, even brackish and polluted waters (within reason) are used, they are not lovers of acidic waters though and have a preference for lowland waters, having said that, I regularily encounter them on pools on both Gelligaer and Merthyr Common and the northern hills of Gwent. This species is far more active in cooler or windy conditions than most of the others. Individuals have been known to live for as long as 8 weeks, however an adults average life span is around 10 days, its just as well that they mature earlier than other species and they are ready for copulation within 3 or 4 days of emerging.
Males are territorial and are often seen in the marginal areas of their choosen breeding waters, once they have found a female copulation is a rather long process taking up to 6 hours, this is probably because the male wants to prevent the female from mating with any other male.
Note the two tone wing spots on the male illustrated on the right, this fine adult male was quite prepared to allow further inspection. Be aware that immature males have a greenish coloured thorax.
Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly Ishnura pumilio
Flight season is May until late September
Locally distributed and rather scarce throughout the region, but could it perhaps be a species that's simply overlooked? Within a few miles of my home there are several bog pools that support reasonable numbers but I'm yet to spend any time with them without getting wet feet!!!
Immature females such as the one shown on the left are relatively easy to identify owing to their orangey colour, the more difficult ID is the one that's posed by the adult female!
Adult female Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly have no really clear antehumeral stripe on their thorax and the thorax is a greeny-brown colour. Another useful ID feature that can help tell them apart from Blue-tailed Damselfly is to carefully check out the shape of the pterostigma (wing spots), the latter have longer diamond-shaped wing spots on the front wings, whereas both sexes of the Scarce B-t D have shorter diamond-shaped bicoloured wing spots. Many serious dragonfly enthusiasts suggest the use of nets to capture the insect for closer inspection, personally I don't believe this should be considered, I've seen debilitating injury caused to the insect and even death, please leave such methods to the professional zoologists, nets are lethal in the wrong hands, always consider the insects welfare first and foremost.
Immature females go through a phase of transition known as aurantiaca before they attain full maturity, the image above (right) illustrates the colour seen during this phase.
One of my many photo-quests has been to get good quality photo's of Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly, up until recently my efforts had been thwarted, however I have now spent many happy hours studying this enigmatic, unobtrusive and fascinating species in their upland habitat.
Males have their 'blue-tails' nearer to the tip of the abdomen than their near relative the Blue-tailed Damselfly.
The species is no lover of dense vegetation, it prefers shallow water, the bog pools such as those on Gelligaer and Merthyr Common and several other such locations on the northern hills of Gwent seem well suited to their needs providing that the livestock keep the areas in and around their habitat grazed and open. Spring fed seepages and even temporal water filled vehicle ruts can support colonies, but the latter is more often than not sadly doomed to failure.
Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma najas
Flight season is Early May into mid September
This damselfly is regarded as only locally common on the Welsh borders, but it has also been slowly expanding its range in both Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. During the summer of 2006 the Glamorgan Dragonfly Recorder, Mike Powell saw one at Cardiff Bay Wetlands, the first record for the species in Vice County 41 - Glamorgan. At or around the same time the insect was also first recorded from Vice County 35 - Gwent/Monmouthshire at 'The British' a small lake near Pontypool.
Since the above information became available several other sites in both counties have been discovered. My own experience of the insect is limited to the Hensol Forest area in the Vale of Glamorgan where I have had to resort to using my 'birding scope' because they seem to spend all their time well out on the water perched up on mature water lily pads, even resorting to digi-scoping (using a camera on the spotting scope) has often resulted in poor quality images, it has taken several visits and lots of patience to obtain the images seen here.
Male Red-eyed Damselfly have burgundy red eyes, the top of the thorax is competely covered in a blackish-bronze colour, it lacks any antehumeral stripes. Both the first segment (nearest the thorax) and the two last segments on the abdomen are blue.
Adult females have browny-red eyes, yellowish antehumeral stripes that can be narrow, short or broken, they appear greenish-yellow below and dark above. The segmental joints appear blue, but there is no blue on the last 2 segments themselves at the tip of the abdomen as in the male.
Red-eyed Damselfly appear to be far more robust than the other blue-tailed species and are at home on still or slow flowing waters that have large expanses of floating plants such as water lilies, its believed that floating algae mats at many recently colonised locations have helped the expansion of the species. The presence of the more aggressive Common Blue Damselfly male can surprisingly mean that the more robust looking Red-eyed Damselfly male is forced away from the marginal areas of shared water habitat thus avoiding competition with the Common Blue.
Larger Dragonflies Page Skimmers/Chasers/Darters Page
www.dragonfly-days.co.uk © Bill Jones 2008-16
This species is considered scarce and very localised in Britain and has a rather scattered distribution.
Below I have included images of mature female and immature male Red-eyed Damselfly to illustrate the differences between the insects - the one important feature to remember is the male always has a blue tail.