These insects belong to a group called Odonata. They have long, thin segmented abdomens, striking colours and large wings with networks of delicate veins (1). They begin their lives as eggs laid on vegetation growing in water. These hatch into larvae which do not pupate. These are called nymphs. As they grow, they shed their skins many times. This is called moulting. These nymphs can spend from one to five years in the water and like their parents are fierce predators. Most spend one to two years as aquatic nymphs.
In Ireland we have 13 species of dragonfly and 11 of damselfly. A dragonfly is larger than a damselfly. Its eyes join to cover the head with no space between them. A damselfly’s eyes are smaller and spaced well apart. The dragonfly rests with its wings spread out; the damselfly rests with its wings folded over on its back. A dragonfly’s hind wings are broad at the base where it joins the body, but the forewings are narrow; a damselfly’s forewings narrow considerably at the base where they join the abdomen.
Now is a good time to spot them especially near water sources. The Common darter (Sympetrum stridatum) or Sciobaire coiteann in Irish is plentiful (2). This is a male; the female is yellow brown in colour. Darters choose a perch near water and make short dashes from there to catch midges and mosquitoes.
The Migrant hawker (Aeshna mixta) or Seabhcaí an Fhómhair was first spotted in Wexford in 2000 but its distribution is increasing due to climate change. This is a female seen recently in Kildare. (3).
The Common blue damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum) or Goirmín droimriabhach in Irish is widespread in Ireland. This is a male (4).
Biodiversityireland.ie is presently carrying out a survey of dragonflies and damselflies in Ireland. The survey will be completed in 2024. If you want to become a citizen scientist submit details of your sightings to them.