Aug 07 2019

Here be Dragons: Damsels not so in Distress

When it comes to Odonata, dragonflies tend to grab most of the attention. They’re bigger, faster, bolder and just that little bit more memorable than the smaller damselflies! But whilst damselflies may flutter around a bit more gently, with their delicate dazzling bodies, don’t underestimate them. They are in fact cold blooded killers of anything small enough to fit in their clutches!

Next time you are out by a pond, lake or stream on a nice sunny day, look out for damselflies flitting about above the water or basking out on reeds and grasses. Then look a little closer. It’s carnage. One second they’ll be lazily buzzing along then BAM, they’ll snatch up a fly, a moth, or even an even smaller damselfly. They aren’t fussy! The prey will either be devoured on the wing or taken back to a perch to be mashed up in their powerful (for a tiny insect) mandibles.

Below are a couple of prime examples, with a Large Red Damselfly making short work of quite a large cranefly, and a Common Blue slurping up an unlucky moth (video courtesy of Education & Engagement Officer Michael)!

Large Red Damselfly eating a cranefly (photo by Michael)

 

 

This week I wanted to introduce two stunners that I have been seeing this summer, the Demoiselles, the only damselflies in the UK with coloured wings! The Banded Demoiselle male has big blue blotches on the wings, whereas the Beautiful Demoiselles (someone was feeling quite lazy when they named this one) have a dark blue hue across the whole wing. Quite distinctive species and hard to confuse with any others. Whilst many species of dragonfly and damselfly can be found away from water, the Demoiselles tend to only be found in the near vicinity to flowing water – with Bandeds preferring sandy bottomed rivers, and Beautifuls preferring gravel bottomed rivers (for their larval life stages). Watching the males glide around with their coloured wings is absolutely magical so find your local river or stream and check them out!

Banded Demoiselle

Beautiful Demoiselle

 

However, on the flip side whilst damselfies are pretty savage predators, they are also a tasty snack for lots of other species! It really is an invertebrate eat invertebrate world out there, as you can see below! It really pays off to have a close look at our countryside’s smallest creatures, you never know what you might find!

A Common Blue being consumed by a robber fly! (Photo by Michael)

A Large Red Damselfly having a bad day with a gorgeous crab spider (photo by Michael)

 

I’ll be back next week after an exciting visit to one of the Special Protection Areas with our resident expert Michael, looking to find as many species as possible!

-Warden Jamie

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