Damselflies dance along a river bankBy Adrian Lawson
July 31, 2010
If you walk along the riverbanks you can’t fail to notice the damselflies.
I quite like watching them although I know very little about them. I think they are beautiful creatures, in contrast to the menacing looking larval stages.
They have such evocative names – the beautiful and banded demoiselles, the southern emerald – which give you a clue to their beauty. They also rather romantically form a perfect loveheart shape when mating.
These are not to be confused with dragonflies. They are generally much more delicate and the easy way to tell them apart is to look at the wings, which at rest fold alongside their body.
On a sunny day the iridescence on their wings and the metallic tones of their bodies shine quite magically.
Their flight is rather splendid too. The demoiselles, having coloured wings, fly rather like a butterfly but the common blue damselfly, which is easily the most common and gregarious, have transparent wings and they just lift off and hover away.
They are also popular with birds who find them tasty food.
The hobby, a swift-shaped falcon, is agile enough to catch them. The common terns also seem to like them as a change from fish and often dive down to snatch them from just above the surface of the water. Many of our smaller birds – reed warblers, blackcaps and whitethroats – feast on them too, and I have been watching parents feeding damselflies to their bemused chicks. The damselfly is quite a mouthful for a fledgling.
A lot of fish depend on them too while they are in the larval stages in the water.
In a strange twist they have been in the news lately, as global warming is allowing some species to expand their range. The dainty damselfly has been found in England for the first time in years.
There are a lot of other things turning up as well, with some a real pest. But surely the dainty damselfly won’t be a problem.