The Common Blue Damselfly

Updated on August 13, 2018
phoenix2327 profile image

The Common Blue Damselfly is a favourite subject of mine for photographing.

Damselflies are smaller, weaker fliers, and their large eyes are separate from each other.
Damselflies are smaller, weaker fliers, and their large eyes are separate from each other. | Source

Walking along a bicycle path on a warm, sunny day, I’m surrounded by the tranquil sights, sounds and smells of nature. A small, dainty wisp of vivid blue flies past me, settling on a leaf. I slow my pace, ready my camera and approach it stealthily. Crouching down, I inch my way forward. Before I can even press the shutter button, off it goes. Of course, it does.

The damselfly and I play this cat-and-mouse game every year. I’m lucky if I manage to photograph one or two of these lovely creatures before the season is over.

The Differences Between Dragonflies and Damselflies

Damselflies are sometimes confused with their more well-known cousin the dragonfly. This is understandable as they both come from the order Odonata. However, there are notable differences that can help you tell them apart.

The adult damselfly holds its wings alongside and parallel to its body when at rest. Their back or hindwing is similar in structure to its forewing.

In contrast, an adult dragonfly holds its wings away and perpendicular to its body while resting. The hindwing is broader near the base and their sizable, multifaceted eyes touch.

Male and Female Common Blue Damselflies
Male and Female Common Blue Damselflies | Source

A General Description of the Damselfly

Distribution

The Common Blue Damselfly, enallagma cyathigerum, can be found all over Europe apart from Iceland. It is common in the United Kingdom and is the most typical British damselfly.

Habitat of Choice

Where there is water, you are sure to find the Common Blue Damselfly. They can be found on large lakes, ponds and streams. You can also see them flying about rivers and canal banks so long as there are ample greenery and flora.

They also inhabit shady, wooded areas, darting here and there as they go about their business of finding food and a mate.

Diversity Amongst Sexes

The Common Blue Damselfly measures anywhere from 32 to 35 mm (1.3 to 1.4 in) in length. Their wings are translucent and held to their side when resting. Males have a predominantly blue abdomen with black spots that resemble rings.

Despite the name, the female can be brown but looks more yellowish-orange, blue or green with rings. The green ones are quite rare and if you’re fortunate enough to come across one, try to get a photo.

Males and females can sometimes be found settled on plant stems facing the same direction.

Dragonfly in Hedge
Dragonfly in Hedge | Source

Life-Span and Reproduction Process

Common Blue Damselflies begin to appear from mid to late May till approximately September. The average lifespan for an adult, once it emerges from its nymph stage, is approximately 12 days. During this time, they must find a mate and complete their reproduction cycle to ensure future generations.

When a suitable mate is found, the male will hold the female by the neck. The female then bends towards the male’s reproductive organs, and mating begins. This is known as the mating wheel.

Mating can last for up to 20 minutes. When the pair finish, they fly off in search of an acceptable area for the female to lay her eggs. The female lays her eggs in plant tissues both above and below the water. While she is underwater, the male stands guard till she resurfaces.

Larvae, also known as nymphs, emerge from the eggs and continue to live in the water preying on other aquatic creatures who share its domain. When the time is right, the nymphs will climb a plant stem to a point above the water line. It then waits for its outer shell to dry and split. Once this happens, the damselfly will work itself from its chrysalis, much like a butterfly, by flexing its body backwards. When it is finally free, the mature damselfly begins pumping blood into its wings until they are fully developed. The adult is now ready to begin its 12-day search for food and a mate.

Common Blue Damselflies Form Mating Wheel
Common Blue Damselflies Form Mating Wheel | Source

How the Damselflies Catch Prey

Damselflies are carnivorous predators. Utilizing their excellent eyesight to spot a potential meal, they catch their prey by forming their legs into a basket shape and scooping it. Once caught, the damselfly holds its quarry fast until it alights and begins feeding.

Their diet consists of flies, midges and mosquitoes. Some large varieties will also ensnare butterflies, moths and, sometimes, smaller dragonflies and other damselflies.

I often walk the footpaths in my village in search of damselflies. Every so often, they visit my backyard. That's a real treat. They flit about with a capriciousness that invites you to follow. Their beautiful electric blue bodies hold your attention captive. I simply cannot take my eyes off them. They are indeed a joy to behold.

Oh, in case you're wondering, I did finally get that shot. Have a look.

Common Blue Damselfly on Leaf
Common Blue Damselfly on Leaf | Source

Forestwatch - Damselflies with Sarah Rees

© 2018 Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon

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    • phoenix2327 profile imageAUTHOR

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      3 months ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you, Lawrence. I just wish HP had kept their mitts off it. The photos are not in the order I placed them and now the hub seems disjointed to me.

      At any rate, I'm pleased you liked it and I appreciate your stopping by.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Amazing.

    • phoenix2327 profile imageAUTHOR

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      4 months ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Nell.

      Yes, they are lovely. Blue is my favourite colour and their colour is so vivid. The only other creature that compares with their colour is the peacock. It's entrancing.

      Thanks for visiting.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      4 months ago from England

      They are so beautiful aren't they? The amount of time I walk down the river and cannot catch them on a photo. I love the way the male waits by the water till the female plants her eggs under the water. lovely little things, and really interesting article.

    • phoenix2327 profile imageAUTHOR

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      4 months ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you, Bill. Three of them are mine. The others came from Wikimedia Commons and another Hubber named Nick Upton. I think if you click on Source, it should tell you which ones are which.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      And the photos were spectacular....did you take them? If so, a job well-done!

    • phoenix2327 profile imageAUTHOR

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      4 months ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you, Mary. They are lovely. When they hover, they remind me of little, tiny helicopters. And yes I was lucky. They don't stay still for me very long so I need to move quickly.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      4 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Damselflies are beautiful, delicate creatures. You're lucky to have taken these pictures.

    • phoenix2327 profile imageAUTHOR

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      4 months ago from United Kingdom

      First off, Fiona, thank you for stopping by. I glad you like this hub.

      According to britannica.com there is a damselfly called Megaloprepus caerulatus which can be found in tropical Central and South America. They are quite large with a wingspan of about 19 cm (7.5 inches). The reason I didn't mention this is because this hub deals specifically with the Common Blue Damselfly. They're quite prevalent in the United Kingdom.

      Hope that helps and, once again, thanks for reading. Have a lovely day. :)

    • Fnana Mensah profile image

      fiona 

      4 months ago from Ghana

      Hi Zulma, I really love your article. It was quite interesting to read. But I have questions about the distribution of damselflies.

      Are they only found in the temperate regions?

      Can they be found in the tropics?

    • phoenix2327 profile imageAUTHOR

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      4 months ago from United Kingdom

      Mate while flying? So the original 'Mile High Club.' :D

      Thanks for stopping by, Bill. You have a great week too.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'll just call it a dragonfly since I can't spell the other one. lol The dragonfly and the ladybug fall under the same category for me, that of too damned cute to ever harm. I just love to watch them fly around....and they mate while flying, which I always thought was pretty darned cool. lol

      Have a great week, Zulma!

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