Large red damselfly

David Chapman

Writer and photographer David Chapman introduces us to these delicate winged beauties



We might feel like summer is fast approaching but May is still very early in the year to see dragonflies. The first of this group of insects to be seen on the wing is actually a damselfly.

We can recognise damselflies from the true dragonflies by the fact that they hold their wings together behind their backs and have a very thin body (thinner than a matchstick).

The large red damselfly is a real light weight at only about 40 milligrams and it is always the first species to be seen.

The colour of this insect is quite variable; adult males are mostly red with some black on their tail whilst the females have a greater proportion of black.

This variability is further confused by the fact that newly emerged individuals are quite yellow but this species should be relatively straightforward to identify because few others will be seen before mid May. Females are slightly thicker-set than males but it is the males that emerge slightly earlier.

The large red damselfly can be found throughout Britain and in just about any wetland habitat including garden ponds. They are often encountered well away from water; when they first emerge they tend to find thick vegetation in which to harden up their wings before flying back to the ponds to find a mate.

During June we should be able to see pairs of these damselflies, in which the male holds onto the female whilst she lays eggs on vegetation in the pond.

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