Damselflies are insects in the sub-order Zygoptera (meaning “paired-wings”). In Great Britain and Ireland there are over 20 species that may be encountered.

Characteristics of Damselflies

Body: Delicate and small.

Wings: Forewings and hind wings are the same shape.

Eyes: Separated on the head.

Behaviour: Weak flight. Usually rests with wings held against the body.

 

Azure Damselfly image by Christophe Brochard

Gender differences

Male

Accessory genitalia: Used for transferring sperm to the female during copulation. Located under segment 2 of the abdomen.

Anal appendages: Often prominent at the very end of the abdomen.

 

Male Emerald Damselfly image by Jörg Hempel

Male Emerald Damselfly image by Alastair Rae

Female

Ovipositor: Appendage used for egg laying. Located under segment 8-9 of the abdomen.

Anal appendages: Not prominent.

Female Emerald Damselfly image by Ouwesok, flickr

Female Emerald Damselfly image by Gail Hampshire

Age

In many species of Damselflies adults change colour as they mature.

Tenerals: Newly emerged adults are often paler in colouration with milky coloured wings.

Mature adults: In many Damselflies species, females change colour as they become sexually mature.

 

Teneral Male Blue-tailed Damselfly by Gail Hampshire

Mature Male Blue-tailed Damselfly by Stavros Markopoulos

Immature Female Blue-tailed Damselfly (violacea form) by Nutmeg66 flickr

Mature Female Blue-tailed Damselfly (infuscans form) by Gail Hampshire

Nationally Important Species

Endangered:               Southern Damselfly                    Northern Damselfly

Near Threatened:      Scarce Emerald Damselfly        Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly       Variable Damselfly

Nationally Scarce:    Small Red Damselfly

Title image: Large Red Damselfly by Rob, flickr