Guide Dragonflies

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Many are evident from their common nicknames. This name may come from the way a captured dragonfly curls its abdomen as if in an attempt to sting. Another possible explanation of this name is that the big Aeshnids etc. Here they were actually feeding on the flies attracted to the horses. People seeing it made the inference that it was the dragon, being big and obvious, stinging, rather than an unseen fly biting. Naturally there is no truth in either myth Similar myths are found throughout the world. You can find more about them by visiting Cultural Odonatology References , a site which has reference material relating to myths, legends, folklore and cultural significance of Odonata throughout the world.

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For more myths, and mythical names used in Europe you could visit Swedish Dragonflies where you will find a page of such items. Both these links will open in a new window. Yes, Dragonflies do have a pair of antennae.

Dragonflies and Damselflies

They are very tiny and difficult to see. If you look at the photo you will just be able to see the antennae between the front of the eye and the front of the face of this Emperor dragonfly. As dragonflies rely much more on their eyesight than on a sense of touch or smell, they do not need the large antennae found on some beetles and moths. Several species of dragonfly are known to collect in large aggregations or swarms.

In most cases this appears to be due to very favourable feeding conditions in the locality. This is less likely as males are much more aggressive to each other when looking for a mate. The Four-spotted Chaser occasionally collects in these large aggregations before making a mass movement to another locality like a bird migration.

The reasons for this are unclear but may be due to population pressures. There are records from the US of migratory assemblages of species such as the Green Darner Anax junius and various species of Saddlebags Tramea.

It is laying eggs. While damselflies and some dragonflies will settle on vegetation and insert eggs into stalks and other material in or near the water, many dragonflies will fly across the water dipping the end of their abdomens into the water and releasing eggs. These eggs are surrounded by a jelly-like substance which enables the eggs to stick to vegetation or the bottom of the pond. Some species will remain paired while the female does this, while in others the male will fly nearby to guard the female from the attentions of other males.

Dragonflies have extremely good vision, which they use to locate and catch small insects in flight.

Like most insects, they have compound eyes. In the case of dragonflies the eyes contain several thousand individual facets, each containing a tiny lens. Each individual lens has a low resolution but by combining the images from all of them dragonflies can achieve a level of resolution that is better than most other insects and thus their sight is particularly good.

They use their amazing sight to catch other insects in flight, in addition to spotting potential mates and predators. Visual acuity varies between species, with migratory dragonflies having the best sight and damselflies with their rather smaller eyes somewhat less, but still very good. Open the doors and windows and leave it to find its own way out if possible. If it does not find its own way out after leaving the doors and windows open for some time, you could try gently ushering it out with a newspaper..

As a last resort, grasp the base of the wings firmly between your fingers and release it outside quickly. The best advice is to leave it. If it has only recently emerged it will just be resting to gain strength to start its adult life.

Frequently Asked Questions

If it is cool it may be gathering any sun or other warmth to enable it to fly, as temperature has a significant effect on dragonfly activity levels. It may have just eaten and is digesting its meal, with no need to eat again for a little while. It uses a lot of energy to fly so it will only do so it if there is a purpose — usually to find food or a mate. Even if it is unwell there is not really anything that can be done and it is best left alone.

If deemed necessary, move it to a safe location, such as high up on some sheltered plants in a sunny location, by grasping it firmly by the base of its wings. Dragonflies can usually fly with a damaged or even missing wing, unless it has been damaged during emergence from its larval skin. If so, it is likely to be perched near to water.

Emerging or newly emerged dragonflies are very vulnerable to damage by rain or strong wind, or attack by other creatures e. A mature individual with a ragged wing will be a less accomplished flier, but may still catch prey and survive quite well. Dragonflies associate with water so the best place to start is a local pond, lake or river that is reasonably unpolluted. If you have a nature reserve locally that has a water body then that is likely to be a good place to visit. Different species are associated with different types of habitat. We also list good dragonfly sites throughout the UK and have specific pages for Wales and Scotland.

Consider coming along to one of the many BDS field meetings held each summer. Check our events page , which lists dragonfly events held by us and other organisations, to see if there is anything happening near you. Generally the pond needs to be a reasonable size, 2m 2 at least, containing varying depths of water with at least one portion where the side slopes into the water and contain a mix of vegetation both in and around the water, without being too overgrown. Always try to choose native plants of local provenance and avoid non-native invasive species.


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The fish will typically reach a high density that does not allow dragonfly larvae and other aquatic insects to flourish or even survive. You will have to choose whether you want a pond for fish or for other wildlife — or even better, dig a second pond for wildlife and keep the fish out! This seems to be occurring more frequently. The species concerned are often exotic species that have been imported as eggs or small larvae on or in plants from other countries.

It is illegal in this country to deliberately release non-native species into the wild without a licence. This is because too many introductions of non-native species in the past have led to unforeseen and unwanted consequences for our native wildlife or our economy.

The dragonflies' world of slow motion

It is unfortunate, but unless you are certain that the insect is a native species you should not allow it to escape into the wild. Hard as it may seem, the best approach is to kill any insect in these circumstances.

How to Collect Dragonflies

The most humane way is probably to put it into a container and then into a freezer. Rain is a natural hazard in our climate and dragonflies are surprisingly robust and able to withstand it. Certainly they are less at risk from rain than from a human trying to move them while their body and wings are still soft. It will then find its own shelter. Check that it is a larva and not just an exuvia. The exuvia is the larval case that is left behind after a dragonfly or damselfly has emerged.

Look a little closer — without falling into the pond. If the dragonfly has emerged you may see a split on the head and thorax, where the dragonfly squeezed out, and some thin, whiteish threads around the hole. Only very occasionally will a larva emerge from the water and die before the dragonfly emerges.

There is no practical help that can be given in such cases and any attempt to intervene when problems are suspected is likely to damage an insect that may just be slow to emerge. Sign up for our Newsletter Sign Up. Submit a Sighting Report. These sightings are not vetted and are not automatically treated as scientific records.

Report a scientific record for addition to our long-term database of dragonfly occurrence, phenology. These records are subject to verification by a local expert.

10 Fascinating Facts About Dragonflies

Search for:. Frequently Asked Questions. What is the difference between Dragonflies and Damselflies? Do Dragonflies Bite or Sting? Why are they called Dragonflies?