The Demoiselle, Nature’s Fresh-Water Wonder
My first sighting of a Demoiselle (from the Dragonfly family), was in North Devon whilst walking up a woodland stream. Female Demoiselles are brown in colour and not as easy to spot. In contrast, the males are an incredible metallic blue, green and black in color. Unlike Dragonflies and Damselflies, the Demoiselle flutters like a butterfly, and their magnificent metallic display of colour seems to flash on and off. T(hink of the way a Kingfisher’s vibrantly coloured feathers reflect in the sunlight as they take flight.)
Demoiselles cover a wide area all over Europe. The winged adults can be seen in the UK between May and August. If you have clean, fresh water in your garden you might just be lucky enough to see one of these impressive insects. This year (2018), I spotted many male Demoiselles flying about on my nursery. It does seem that Demoiselle’s preferred habitats are sand- and shingle-based woodland streams and rivers. Demoiselles are attracted to cool, clear moving water that is usually surrounded by natural vegetation. In such places, you may see them resting in sunny stream clearings or dappled shade, or just fluttering amongst the stream-side plants.
There are only two species of Demoiselle in the UK, the other being the very attractive Banded Demoiselle. Both winged species and their larvae are predators, feeding on other insects and their larvae. Adult females go under the water to lay. They will lay up to 300 eggs amongst submerged oxygenating plants such as Ranunculus Aquatilis (Water Crowfoot), and Callitriche Species (Starworts). The females prefer to lay their eggs in stream-side shallow pools where there is no current.
When the eggs hatch, the larvae go through various stages of molts. They eventually grow to a length of 1.5 cm; this takes place over a two year period. The larvae have long legs for gripping onto submerged aquatic vegetation that might be in the flow of running water. Overwintering in mud and silt, in spring and early summer, the two year old larvae will then climb out of the water onto the stems of marginal plants. Just like Dragonflies and Damselflies, the winged adults hatch out of their Nymph bodies and dry their wings in the sun before taking their first flight.
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