Today's species feature puts the spotlight on the beautiful demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo). This damselfly is found in almost all parts of Europe.
Damselflies are closely related to dragonflies, they are both in the taxonomic order Odonata and damselflies are in the suborder Zygoptera. This suborder is an ancient an ancient one and fossils from it have been dated back to about 250 million years ago!
Damselflies vs. Dragonflies
Damselflies and Dragonflies do look fairly similar but there are a few reliable ways to tell them apart. The most obvious one is the shape of their abdomen. Damselflies have a long, thin abdomen while dragonflies appear shorter and more stocky. Another way is how the insect hold its wings while at rest. Damselflies will usually have their wings folded back over their body while at rest and dragonflies will have their wings held out perpendicular to their bodies.
Damselflies are generally smaller than dragonflies. The beautiful demoiselle has an average body length of 45-50 mm.
This species displays sexual dimorphism (males and females look different). The males are larger and are a brilliant metallic blue. The females have brown wings and a metallic green body with a bronze tip. The males will show slightly different coloration depending on where in their geographic range they live. For example, males in the south-eastern part of the range (the Balkans and Turkey) have wings that are completely blue while males in other areas have clear areas at the base and tip of their wings.
Where can I see one?
Check out the bank-side vegetation along streams and rivers. You might find a male perched waiting for a female. Their flight period is from May to September and the best time to see them is from late May to late August.
The beautiful demoiselle has a IUCN Redlist status of Least Concern.
Most conservation efforts are concentrated on dragonflies, but the two suborders have similar needs so conservation efforts can help them both. What negatively impacts damselflies is clearing of forests, drop in groundwater levels, pollution of waterways, and the general degradation of wetlands.
If you want to see a beautiful demoiselle in action, check out this amazing video by Paul Dinning. It captures them flying and resting.
Associated artwork - Calopteryx virgo by Holly D'Oench
I created this painting to capture the metallic beauty of the beautiful demoiselle.
Time lapse of the painting process: