Collectively, dragonflies and damselflies belong to the group (or Order) of insects known as Odonata, divided into two distinct groups or sub-orders; Anisoptera (true dragonflies) and Zygoptera (damselflies).
Key information about damselflies:
- Typically, damselflies are smaller and daintier than dragonflies and have a weaker, more fluttering flight.
- Damselflies have small eyes that are separated on either side of the head.
- Damselflies have similarly sized pairs of wings – Zygoptera means ‘equal wings’.
- Though not an infallible rule, damselflies tend to rest with their wings closed.
10 species of damselfly may be found in Bedfordshire:
The Willow Emerald Damselfly – Chalcolestes viridis, is a recent addition to the County list. Easily missed owing to its resemblance to to the Emerald Damselfly – Lestes sponsa, and its habit of resting in trees close to the water’s edge.
The Emerald Damselfly – Lestes sponsa, is one of the county’s least common damselfly species. It’s larger than most damselflies but not always easy to spot.
The Banded Demoiselle – Calopteryx splendens, is an abundant and easily identifiable damselfly. Males are often seen defending their territory over slow flowing waters.
The White-legged Damselfly – Platycnemis pennipes, is a common sight and easy to identify with its distinctive white legs.
The Azure Damselfly – Coenagrion puella, is a common and often seen damselfly. One of several similar looking blue damselflies, but its appearance can be variable.
The Common Blue Damselfly – Enallagma cyathigerum, is easily missed unless they are moving, and the female occurs in several colour forms that can make identification more difficult.
The Red-eyed Damselfly – Erythromma najas, is a common sight in the region. One of two very similar red-eyed damselfly species, positive identification needs care.
The Small Red-eyed Damselfly – Erythromma viridulum, is a more recent visitor to the region, but now well established. One of two very similar red-eyed damselfly species, positive identification needs care.
The Blue-tailed Damselfly – Ischnura elegans, is an abundant damselfly, and the female has distinct colour forms at different stages of its life-cycle.
The Large Red Damselfly – Pyrrhosoma nymphula, is an early season damselfly – typically the first to emerge in spring, and the region’s only red damselfly.