Damsels not in distress

We have a pond in the garden, well calling it a pond can be a bit of an exaggeration, but it does have water and does attract ‘things’ to it. This weekend a flash of red passed my peripheral vision as I was cogitating about how warm it was for once. A closer look revealed a Large Red Damselfly, Pyrrhosoma nymphula, basking on the surrounding plants. I’ve seen a flash of dragonflies before, but they never stayed long enough for me to take a photo. This male seemed to be quite happy to pose, though never in a convenient spot to make it easy for me.

Large Red Damselfly 170619

It’s called the Large Red Damselfly, but don’t expect it to be large. Size is often relative, and based upon what you compare it with in the first place. In fact it’s quite small and dainty with a body length of between 33-36mm and a wing span of 19-24mm. Yes there is a Small Red Damselfly (Cerigagrion tenellum) which is smaller. The Large Red Damselfly is one of the most common and widespread of the Damselflies in the UK and among the first to appear in the spring. My visitor is a male and relatively easy to identify with his deep red abdomen and bronze-black bands on the 7th, 8th and 9th abdominal segments. The females are a little more tricky as there are three colour forms, but you’ll have to look these up as I don’t have any photos yet.

Large Red Damselfly 170619

The males emerge earlier than the females and stake out their territories, chasing away any trespassers until the females emerge and mating starts. They can be found from mid-April through until the end of August. It has a liking for well-vegetated areas, and can be found almost anywhere where water occurs, including ponds, lakes, rivers and canals. After mating the larvae take two years to complete their development, and there are estimates that as few as 0.2% of larvae complete their development. The larvae conceal themselves from predators by clasping themselves to debris and vegetation.Following emergence it takes a further 9-14 days for maturation to complete, and the adults can life for a further 40 days.

Large Red Damselfly NBN Distribution

If you look at any water source, you have a good chance of seeing these busy and bright damselflies as they are all over the UK.








  • Bowles, P. Large Red Damselfly. http://online-field-guide.com/Pyrrhosomanymphula.htm Accessed 2017.06.22.
  • Nature Spot. Large Red Damselfly. http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/large-red-damselfly Accessed 2017.06.22.
  • NBN. Large Red Damselfly. https://species.nbnatlas.org/species/NBNSYS0000005599 Accessed 2017.06.22.
  • Smallshire,D. and Swash, A. (2010) Britain’s Dragonflies (2nd ed). Wild Guides. Accessed 2017.06.22.

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