Let’s continue National Dragonfly Week today with a delightful damselfly, the little Blue-tailed (Ischnura elegans), another very common damselfly that can be seen flying throughout Britain from May through to September. Though there is also a Scarce blue-tailed damselfly, it is, well, scarce, so chances are if you see a dark-coloured damsel with that distinctive all-blue segment towards the end of its body, it will be the Blue-tailed damselfly. The females are a little more tricky, as their abdomens and tail spots can be different colours – pink, violet, pale green, pale brown – depending on their type and state of maturity.
I don’t have any female photos so thought I would show you, instead, earlier stages in a damselfly’s lifecycle. The eggs the females lay in their local pond, lake, or slow-moving stream or river hatch into nymphs that live in that water, preying on other larvae and small insects. After as little as six months or as long as two years, and having gone through a series of skin moults as their bodies grow in size, the nymphs leave the water and climb a plant stem, branch or tree trunk, where they undergo the ultimate change, emerging from their final skin to fly as an adult.
As you can see above, they are often very pale when they emerge as it takes them a while to colour up. You can often find the discarded skin cases (known as exuvia) near watery places – I found a tree alongside my local lake that was covered in them.