Hampshire and IOW Wildlife Trust – Dragonflies

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Dragonflies On Display

Darter, skimmer, chaser and hawker. What may sound like a new quartet in Santa’s gang of flying reindeer are in fact the names of some of the UK’s resident dragonfly species.

This special group of invertebrates are part of the Odonata order of flying insects, which is made up of dragonfly and damselfly species. Here’s a closer look at these winged wonders.

Amazingly, dragonflies were some of the first flying insects to evolve over 300 million years ago, soaring the skies with eagle-sized wingspans before even dinosaurs.

With a pair of large eyes providing fantastic vision and a top speed of around 30mph – which makes dragonflies one of the fastest flying insects in the UK – they are fearsome predators.

There are 17 species of damselfly and 23 species of dragonfly resident in the UK, plus the occasional visiting species from continental Europe.

Found in almost every habitat, including wetlands, moorland and woodland glades, these predatory insects bring a splash of colour to a landscape just as wildflowers and butterflies are winding down.

To tell dragonflies and damselflies apart, there is a general rule of thumb that damselflies are slimmer and rest with their wings folded, while the stockier dragonfly keeps its wings spread outwards.

Banded Demoiselle © Chris Button

Banded Demoiselle © Chris Button

Damselflies can be spotted on the wing as early as the start of May, while the last common darter of the year might still be flying on a warm October day. The highest species diversity is found during July and August, and, like most insects, dragonflies are most active in warm, sunny weather.

Five species to spot include the emperor dragonfly, the southern hawker, the banded demoiselle, the golden ringed and the common darter.

In our region, Pamber Forest Nature Reserve is a brilliant place to find dragonflies near the woodland streams and ponds during the breeding season, and hunting for prey along the woodland rides. Over 20 species have been recorded here, including the club-tailed dragonfly, which was a first for Hampshire, and the white-legged damselfly. It’s also a great site for seeing the beautiful demoiselle damselfly and the golden ringed dragonfly. Swanwick Lakes and Testwood Lakes nature reserves near Southampton are also prime dragonfly hotspots.

To find out more about local wildlife that Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust are working to protect visit https://www.hiwwt.org.uk

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