Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) have remained virtually unchanged for millions of years. Over 40 species of breeding dragonfly and damselfly can be found in the UK, with over 20 of these species found at Parc Slip. These include Emperor Dragonflies, Broad-bodied chasers, Southern Hawker, Four Spot Chaser, Azure Damselfly, Emerald Damselfly and many more of these wonderful winged jewels.
These fast flying invertebrates can be found darting around Parc Slip over wetland, moorland and woodland glades at incredibly fast speeds. They are notoriously agile flyers with powerful flight muscles allowing them to move their wings independently from one another. This maneuverability is important and allows them to hunt, dodge predators and patrol their territories.
Dragonflies and damselflies require water in which they lay their eggs and the larvae will grow and feed. The mating process in Odonata can last as long as a few hours or as brief as a few seconds. The male curves his abdomen and ‘clasps’ onto the thorax of a female using special appendages. This is known as the tandem pair or wheel position. Whilst like this the pair can still fly and are often seen in quieter spots to avoid disturbance. Shortly after mating the female will lay the eggs.
The majority of their lifecycle is spent in the larval stage, with some remaining as nymphs (dragonfly and damselfly larvae) for over two years. Although, this is affected by temperature and food availability. Nature reserves such as Parc Slip are ideal to spot nymphs feeding, as they contain a variety of ponds all different sizes, depths and ages. When visiting the reserve it is worth spending some time looking around the ponds, scrapes, wet ditches, canals and sluices. Check the air for adults flying and the vegetation around the waters edge for resting adults. If you’re lucky you may even see a nymph which has crawled out of the water and begun shedding its exoskeleton. Left behind will only be the casing or exuvia, this process can take up to 3 hours. They emerge as an adult, however, at this time the individual is unable to fly making it extremely vulnerable and should not be disturbed. They emerge green and as their scales harden they develop their adult colours.
To find our more information about how you can help Odonata, or to become a member of The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales visit https://www.welshwildlife.org/things-to-do/wildlife-gardening/