From 13th to 22nd July we will be celebrating Dragonfly Week!
Dragonflies are one of the most iconic and recognisable creatures we have in the UK.
They are an insect in the Odonata order along with damselflies. Worldwide there are over 5000 species of dragon and damselfly, found on every continent except Antarctica. The UK is home to 40 of these species (17 damselfly species and 23 dragonfly species) as well as the odd migrant from mainland Europe. They can be found in a variety of different wet habitats such as streams, ponds, bogs and fens. They can also be found in grasslands and gardens that are close to good quality water sources.
The life cycle of dragon and damselflies involve 3 main stages; egg, larva and adult. Dragonflies and damselflies lay their eggs in plants in or near the water or just into the water where they will remain until they are ready to become adults. Larvae hatch out of the eggs and will stay in this stage for a few weeks or even years, depending on the species. Broad-bodied chasers can take up to 3 years to finally emerge! The larvae will go through a series of moults as they grow bigger. Once the larva (or nymph) is ready, it will crawl out of the water onto upright vegetation where it will break out of its skin, leaving behind what is known as an exuvia. This mostly occurs during the day as the sun helps to dry them out, however hawkers will emerge during the night as a way to avoid predators, as this is when they are at their most vulnerable.
There are many myths that surround dragonflies, some of which paint the dragonfly in a bad light. Through these myths, they have developed some unusual nicknames such as “horse stingers” and “devil’s darning needle”. “Devil’s darning needle” stems from the myth that they would sew your eyes, mouth and ears shut! The nickname “horse stinger” comes from people seeing dragonflies circling horses trying to get the flies (which are biting the horse) and of course the natural assumption is that it’s the dragonfly making the horse twitch.
To some their needle-like, long abdomens look fearsome as they think they are stingers, but in fact dragonflies are completely harmless to humans. The word Odonata means “toothed jaw” but dragonfly and damselfly jaws are not strong enough to pierce human skin. Instead they use them to feed on other flying insects such as mosquitoes and even smaller species of damsel and dragonfly.
The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales have many sites that are great for dragonflies and damselflies.
Here are just a few:
Parc Slip Nature Reserve is one of the best sites in south Wales for dragonflies and damselflies with a recorded total of 23 species! Species seen here range from the widespread Emperor Dragonfly to the near threatened Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly. Other notable species include Hairy Dragonfly and Golden-ringed.
2. The Welsh Wildlife Centre and Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve in Cilgerran
Excellent place to see the Beautiful Deimoiselle as well as various species of Hawker, Darter and Chaser.
3. Cors Goch reserve in Carmarthenshire
Cors Goch boasts a few rarities including the Small Red Damselfly and the Black Darter.
4. Llyn Fach reserve in Neath Port Talbot
Visit Llyn Fach to see the Black Darter.
5. Ystradfawr in South Powys
A great reserve for an array of dragon and damselflies.
Why not celebrate Dragonfly Week by visiting one of our reserves?