Dazzling Damselflies, by Alice Ashcroft, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust
Watching damselflies dance through the air is one of the quintessential experiences of summer, and something many of us look forward to every year. Garden ponds are important habitats for damselflies, and creating even a small body of water on your patch is a great way to attract them to your home. You can find lots of helpful guidance on making a wildlife pond at www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk
Here are some damselflies to look out for as the weather gets warmer…
Beautiful demoiselles are large damselflies, usually found on small, fast-flowing rivers. Males have metallic blue bodies and striking, dark wings, and they show them off with a flitting, fluttering flight in a bid to attract mates. Females are slightly different with brown wings and green bodies.
Common blue damselflies are easy to find as they are drawn to almost any water body – they are often the dominant damselfly species at large lakes and reservoirs. Males are pale blue with bands of black along the body, and females are either blue or a dull shade of green.
Azure damselflies are very common around most water bodies, and can also be found in grassland and woodland. They are also a familiar garden resident, particularly visible in the warmer months. These damselflies are pale blue with bands of black along the body, and the defining black segment on their back is U-shaped.
Banded demoiselles are large damselflies that live along the edges of slow-flowing rivers and canals among lush, damp vegetation. They can also be found near still ponds and lakes, though typically those near to rivers. Their name derives from the distinctive ‘fingerprint’ mark on the males’ wings.
Southern damselflies are notoriously difficult to distinguish from other blue and black damselflies. To identify the small blue damselflies, it helps to concentrate on the pattern on the second segment of the males’ abdomen, just behind the thorax. The common blue has a stalked spot or club shaped mark, while the southern has an unusual and highly variable mark that often resembles the face of a tiny Minotaur.
We were delighted to see southern damselflies thriving at Hockley Meadows nature reserve last summer, and we hope to see them again this year. Through careful management, we have created an environment in which these rare and beautiful damselflies can thrive. We couldn’t have done this, or secured Hockley Meadows at all, if it weren’t for the support of the community and generous gifts in wills from local wildlife lovers.