Dragons and damsels

Wednesday 18 August 2010, 14:11

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron

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The height of summer is an excellent time of year for spotting dragonflies and damselflies.

Seeing these small, colourful insects darting around rivers and ponds, it's hard to imagine that in prehistoric times, some of them would have had wingspans of up to 70cm in length - double the length of that ruler on your desk!

Dragonflies and damselflies belong to an order of insects known as 'Odonata' from the Greek word for tooth. This refers to the fact that they have teeth on their lower mandibles for grasping and crushing food with - like many other insects!

To the untrained eye they can look pretty similar in appearance, especially in flight but there are a few easy ways to tell them apart.

Damsels are small, delicate looking insects and weak flyers - often resting and always with their wings folded back.

Dragonflies on the other hand are stockier built, stronger fliers and not afraid to move further away from water sources. Unlike damselflies they rest with their wings open, like aeroplanes.

Andrew from our Wales Nature Flickr group spotted this broad bodied chaser dragonfly in Bryn Bach Park, Tredegar:

But whatever your preference both come in a startling array of colours and are a photographers dream as they'll happily sit and rest for a few minutes in the sun whilst you get your shots.

If you're a member of our Flickr group then take a look at our collection of damsels and dragonfly pictures. They come in all shapes and sizes!

Keith Moseley snapped this large red damselfly at Coed y Bwynydd, north of Usk:

If this blog has wet your appetite and you'd like to know more about these fascinating creatures - then you're in luck.

The Newport Wetlands Centre are offering a guided dragonfly and damselfly walk on Wednesday, 25 August at 1.30pm.

During the walk you'll have an opportunity to go pond dipping and catch dragonfly nymphs.

These strange creatures live in water for up to three years before emerging as flying adults and only live for a few weeks in order to mate.

There's a nice guide to spotting and identifying key species here.


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