Your guide to the dragonflies and damselflies of Hampshire

Banded demoiselle - Hampshires chalk streams and rivers are some of the best places to spot this large damselfly

Banded demoiselle - Hampshires chalk streams and rivers are some of the best places to spot this large damselfly

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Lianne de Mello, of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, says now is the time to spot a wide variety of damselflies and dragonflies when you walk beside water

AS SUMMER gets into full swing our damselflies and dragonflies have begun to emerge.

Broad-bodied chaser - one of the earliest species of dragonfly to emerge, it is common on vegetated garden ponds, lakes and gravel pits

Broad-bodied chaser - one of the earliest species of dragonfly to emerge, it is common on vegetated garden ponds, lakes and gravel pits

Whether a broad-bodied chaser dashing from its perch in pursuit of small insect prey, or a cloud of banded demoiselles erupting from a stand of reeds, dragonflies are often the spectacle of a late spring or summer’s walk beside one of Hampshire’s rivers, lakes or ponds.

Often collectively referred to as dragonflies, the robust dragonflies and the more delicate damselflies make up the insect order Odonata.

This group of insects is easy to recognise and the adult forms are commonly seen around rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. Although closely related, adult dragon and damselflies can be separated easily by their differences in size, shape and behaviour.

The adult stage is just a snippet of the story of a dragonfly’s life. Adult damselflies live between one and four weeks and dragonflies for eight weeks at most.

Common darter - this widespread lowland species is generally the last dragonfly to disappear each year. Use binoculars to look for the yellow stripe on the legs that distinguish it from the closely-related ruddy darter

Common darter - this widespread lowland species is generally the last dragonfly to disappear each year. Use binoculars to look for the yellow stripe on the legs that distinguish it from the closely-related ruddy darter

In contrast, most British species of dragonfly spend at least two years as aquatic nymphs. They are fearsome predators feeding on tadpoles, sticklebacks, other invertebrates and even smaller dragonfly nymphs.

Dragonflies are the hawks and falcons of the insect world. With large muscles in their thorax to power their wings, they can hit speeds of 36kph. They are highly agile and can perform sharp turns at full speed, a consequence of their large compound eyes and ability to move their four wings independently of each other.

With its mild climate and vast variety of habitats, Hampshire is one of the best counties to see a wide range of dragonflies and damselflies. Best time to spot them is in the middle of a warm, sunny day with little or no wind.

The Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves at Blashford, Testwood and Swanwick offer excellent opportunities to see a wealth of dragonflies. And you don’t need any equipment other than a sharp pair of eyes – but binoculars can help identify some of the damselflies.

Golden-ringed dragonfly - with stunning green eyes and vivid black and yellow banding, this large dragonfly is quite distinctive

Golden-ringed dragonfly - with stunning green eyes and vivid black and yellow banding, this large dragonfly is quite distinctive

So when you are next out for a stroll along the bank of a river, lake or pond, see if you can spot any of the species shown here.

Emperor dragonfly - Britains largest dragonfly. This species is easily recognised by its long blue abdomen and seemingly continuous flight well above the water

Emperor dragonfly - Britains largest dragonfly. This species is easily recognised by its long blue abdomen and seemingly continuous flight well above the water

Small red damselfly - as well as being notably smaller, the bright red eyes and red legs of this species make it easy to distinguish from the more widespread large red damselfly

Small red damselfly - as well as being notably smaller, the bright red eyes and red legs of this species make it easy to distinguish from the more widespread large red damselfly

Southern damselfly -  the only damselfly protected by UK law. Hampshire is nationally important for this species with strongholds in the New Forest and on the historic water meadows associated with the Itchen and Test Valleys

Southern damselfly - the only damselfly protected by UK law. Hampshire is nationally important for this species with strongholds in the New Forest and on the historic water meadows associated with the Itchen and Test Valleys

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