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13 November 2014

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You are in: Dorset > Nature > Nature Features > Moors Valley's dragonflies

Common blue damselfly - Moors Valley Country Park

Common blue damselfly - Moors Valley

Moors Valley's dragonflies

There are 27 species of dragonfly and damselfly at Moors Valley Country Park and the warm weather has meant that they're emerging earlier than normal this year.

Keith Powrie has been carrying out voluntary butterfly counts at Moors Valley for over 12 years and more recently has extended his interest to damselflies and dragonflies.

Keith's counted 27 species of damselfly and dragonfly on the 900 acre site,  putting it in the top ten areas in the UK for the colourful insects. He's already hoping for a good year having spotted some species emerging earlier than usual, thanks to the recent sunshine.

Keith explains that the high numbers of damselflies and dragonflies in this part of Dorset, is mainly down to the cleanliness of Moors Valley's more "fruitful" ponds.

He says: "I think it's the lack of pollution.

"You won't find any shopping trolleys in any of the ponds, or anything like that. They manage the pond, [so] that it doesn't become over populated with plants."

The dragonflies live near water

The dragonflies live near water

Water is essential

Damselflies and dragonflies need water to survive, so the ponds are essential to their survival.

Keith says: "They lay their eggs in the water and these hatch out into the larvae, which stay in the water from one, up to five years for some of the larger dragonflies, and they feed in the water.

"The water is necessary to complete the lifecycle."


Emergent vegetation [plants rooted underwater that grow above] is also vital to damselflies and dragonflies.

Keith says: "The larva can climb out onto them [the plants] and when their skin dries out it cracks open and the dragonfly/damselfly crawls out."

Small red damselfly

Small red damselfly

Once emerged from the larva state the dragonflies and damselflies still have transformation work to do, before they're fully fledged.

Keith explains: "They've not got any colour, they've not got any strength in their wings.

"They've got to go away from the water so that they can produce their fighting colours and strengthen their wings, and this can take from one to two days.

"Once they've done that they can come back to the water, fight for territories, mate and feed."

Damselflies v dragonflies

Although damselflies and dragonflies are very similar, Keith explains that there is one major difference.

He says: "Damselflies will settle with their wings parallel to the body. Dragonflies will settle with their wings perpendicular to the body. The emeralds [different again from both the dragonflies and the damselflies] will settle with their wings at 45 degrees."

Species spotting

Keith's keen eye has also meant he's been able to spot many rare and new species.

Scarce chaser - the blue eyes characterise the species

Scarce chaser

He says: "We've recently acquired a new species - the scarce chaser. I've discovered them on the southern lake. I counted up to 22 of them last year.

"It may well be due to global warming, because it's been sat in its own little territory for many years now and not been seen elsewhere [until now].

"We're getting continental species far more regularly now than we used to. A couple of years back I found one that's a Mediterranean species - scarlet darter.

"There is another one that is also colonising the UK - the small red eyed damselfly."

The "real accolade" for Keith though, would be to see the orange spotted emerald.

He says: "[It] used to live in the Moors River, which runs through the park. Unfortunately, there was some pollution in the river and it wiped the whole lot out, and that was the only place the orange spotted emerald was found in this country, so it is now extinct."

last updated: 13/05/2009 at 09:50
created: 12/05/2009

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