Wildlife Column: The striking beautiful Damsels...

Ian Rotherham
Ian Rotherham

I have written previously about dragonflies and damselflies and particularly about a species that is relatively new to the region, the Banded Demoiselle. This beautiful insect is a denizen of waterways such as rivers and canals were it can reed amongst waterweeds and pace up and down the bank in territorial angst.

They are found mostly along slow-flowing lowland streams and rivers, particularly favouring sites with muddy bottoms. It occurs mostly south of the Humber but is spreading northwards. However, we do have two species of demoiselles in Britain, and the less common is aptly known as the ‘Beautiful Demoiselle’ (Calopteryx virgo); and even by comparison with its cousin this is a real stunner.

Damsels

Damsels

They are both very striking, and indeed, these are the only two British damselfly species with obviously coloured wings (though the ‘banded’ has a strong and distinctive wing-stripe).

The latter is more widespread but the Beautiful Demoiselle is presently rather western in its distribution.

Maybe this will change in the coming decades. The Beautiful Demoiselle is mainly found along streams and rivers, especially if they have sandy or gravelly bottoms.

Here the males rest on bankside vegetation and wait for the females to turn up; a familiar strategy! Both species are in flight from as early as late April or May, and through to August or even September. A key habitat factor to look for is flowing water in amongst ell-vegetated banks.

It is worth watching out for larger dragonflies up until the first cold weather. Hawkers in particular, are able to keep active well into autumn if conditions permit. So do let me know if you spot anything interesting. We have Northern, Southern, Migrant, and Common Brown Hawkers all still active and that is before we move on to other groups – the Chasers, Darters, Skimmers and the rest.

These are big, exciting insects and relatively easy to watch. All you need is good weather, (so 2018 has been good), a little patience, and a dollop of good luck. To help the dragonfly watcher there is plenty of on-line help and good books to work from.