Garden News

Dragons and Damsels - 21 June 2017

Damselflies can be seen around the edges of most of the ponds at Exbury. They are slender, threadlike insects, mainly coloured blue or red, which when perched hold their wings along their body. They have spent the preceding year underwater in an immature state known as "nymphs".  Now they are hatching out and mating, dropping their eggs into the water to create a new generation. You can sometimes see them coupled together in a strange shape called the "wheel", as you can see in the photo below, and can even fly in this position. Some remain joined together, with the male holding the female as she lays her eggs under water (see below); others fly freely.

Azure damselflyThe two species most likely to be encountered at the edge of a pond are Azure Damselfly (left) or Blue tailed Damselfly (below). They are easily told apart as the Blue-tailed is mainly black with a bright blue blob at the end of its abdomen, whereas the Azure is patterned in black and blue throughout its length.

Azure damselflies matingAzure  damselflies in the "wheel" position (right).

 

 

 

                                                                   

Azure damselflies egg laying

 

Blue tailed damselflyAzure damselflies egg-laying (left) and Blue-tailed Damselfly (right) 

 

 

 

 

DEmperor dragonfly egg layingragonflies are altogether more robust creatures. They are bigger bodied and when perched hold their wings at right angles to their body. They come in various sizes and colours, and zoom vigorously across the ponds protecting their territories from others of their kind. Some will return repeatedly to the same perch, while others seldom perch at all. The dragonfly most likely to be seen at the moment is the Emperor Dragonfly, one of our largest species. It has an apple green thorax and a blue abdomen, and its nymphs spend much longer (up to 4 years) in the immature stage underwater. When they hatch out they crawl up the stem of a reed, or an iris, and you can sometimes find their cast off case still attached to a stem. The individual in the photograph is egg-laying, with half its body under water, while it fixes pierces a stem and deposits its eggs there.

‘A truly fantastic day out. My wife and I were bowled over by the amazing spring colours of rhododendrons and azaleas and there was literally colour everywhere. There are beautiful areas to walk through as well as places to sit. We took a picnic in the hope of being able to sit by one of the ponds and were not disappointed – the reflections were as spectacular as the real thing! The next thing we want to do is return in the autumn to see the colours change as it must be beautiful’

David Parker, Christchurch

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