The Damselflies and Dragonflies of Priston

All photographs and text are © Doug Pattison 2007 and taken in Priston except where noted.
Click on any image to enlarge to get the full detail of the wings.
Damselflies & Dragonflies
Doug Pattison's pond Some years ago our most excellent sons dug us a pond, and ever since our garden has been visited by more and more of these delightful creatures. This led to wider investigation…

Species found in Priston include (links courtesy of British Dragonfly Society):

Damselflies: Large Red Damselfly, Common Bue Damselfly, Azure Damselfly, Beautiful Demoiselle;

Dragonflies: Southern Hawker, Emperor Dragonfly, Broad Bodied Chaser, Black Tailed Skimmer, Common Darter.
Large Red Damselfly Damselflies are smaller than Dragonflies, their bodies are generally thinner than a matchstick, and at rest their wings are folded along their back. This Large Red Damselfly is less than 40mm long.
Golden Ringed Dragon Fly Dragonflies are larger, some, like this beautiful Golden-ringed Dragonfly much larger (80mm long), more robust, and more aggressive in flight. At rest their wings are held extended. This is NOT a Priston dragonfly, but flew into our car just outside Camembert on the Priston Jubilee Morris trip to France, and, perhaps stunned, generously allowed its picture to be taken.

Large Red Damselfly
Male Large Red Damselfly These are very common around our pond, around 36mm long, with stunning red eyes. This is a male sunning on a rock beside the water,
Large Red Damselfly and another on a nettle leaf.
Large Red Damselfly immature female This is an immature female – the yellow at the tail will reduce as she matures.
Large Red Damselfly mating When a male finds a willing mate he grasps her behind the head with special claspers, and the female brings her tail underneath to take sperm from the male. They remain linked like this, flying quite well in tandem, and the female lands on a water lily leaf to lay her eggs under the water on leaves or stems.

The Life-cycle of a Dragonfly
Southern Hawker Dragonfly

One of our largest dragonflies, the Southern Hawker, has taken a liking to our garden pond, allowing us to see the full life cycle of this fine insect.

Here is the female, having already mated, laying eggs in and around the pond, oblivious of mere photographers.

Southern Hawker Dragonfly larvae The eggs develop into larvae, and live entirely underwater for two years. This one is about 4cm long, and is nearly ready to emerge; the wings can be seen partially developed. The larvae are ferocious hunters, catching creatures such as tadpoles.
Southern Hawker Dragonfly newly hatched The larvae climb up a stem, the skin splits down the back, and the dragonfly climbs out to dry off and inflate the wings. In the picture the husk of the larval skin can just be seen below, still clinging to the stem, with the newly hatched, or teneral, dragonfly above. The final colours have not yet developed.
Tenoral male The teneral (ie. newly-emerged) dragonfly is much easier to photograph, presumably the full metamorphosis from pond-dwelling to flying takes time. This is a teneral male, about 7cm long, wingspan about 10cm.
Tenoral male dragonfly Note the huge eyes, and the spines on the legs used together as a net to catch its prey in flight.
Golden dragon fly adult male And here is an adult male with its glorious final colouring. There is some damage to the right fore-wing, which didn’t seem to affect his flying skills!

© 2007 Priston Parish Council & individual contributors