Wednesday 2 May 2012

Emerging Damselflies (with Video)

I don't normally consider the 'insect season' to have fully begun until the first damselflies are on the wing. While it will be a little while before their larger dragonfly cousins make an appearance, damselflies are similar to dragonflies in many ways, not least in terms of their life cycles. Both spend a large proportion of their lives underwater in their aquatic nymph stage before emerging from the water, climbing a reed and transforming into their adult forms. A truly remarkable process.

The first damselflies to appear in the UK are the Large Red damselflies and I can often be found searching the margins of local ponds in late April looking for signs of activity. Ideally I like to spot the nymph just as it leaves the water enabling me to watch the entire transformation, though they can be difficult to spot at this stage. However, over the years I have increased my chances of finding the nymphs by learning more about them i.e. exactly when they'll emerge and their favoured ponds (and even which parts of those ponds).

This year I have been fortunate to observe the emergence of several adult Large Red damselflies. The image below shows a damselfly half-way through the transformation process. I chose to backlight this one to give it a different feel.


Within a few hours of emerging the wings have dried out and the colours have developed (this is a different individual to the image above):

For the first time this year I thought I would try to capture this process using the video function on my DSLR. I must admit, I had barely even touched this function previously but I'm quite pleased with the results, though I should emphasise that they're fairly amateurish!

There are 2 videos. The first begins half way through the transformation process but you'll have to excuse the  sound of a light aircraft towards the end of the video! 

The second starts right at the beginning of the process shortly after the nymph has left the water and climbed up a stem. The whole process lasted around 20 mins but I've edited it down to 1 min 41 secs. Unfortunately I did miss part of the process towards the end as it was taking a while and, for reasons that now escape me, I turned my back at what turned out to be a crucial moment! Just be grateful that the BBC Natural History Unit doesn't suffer from my short attention span.


  1. Thats really amazing,
    The transformation from a some what alien looking creature,
    to a creature of pure beauty.

  2. thanks Dave, it is remarkable isn't it.