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Dragonflies and damselflies

The order Odonata comprises dragonflies (wings outstretched at rest) and damselflies (wings folded at rest). They are an ancient group, having arisen in the Carboniferous Period (300 million years ago). This is 150 million years before the first birds, and 295 million years before man appeared on Earth.

They are mainly tropical insects with over 5,000 species worldwide. Europe has about 114 breeding species, the British Isles 38 and Scotland 21. In Scotland, the commonest species breed in ponds and lochans. These water bodies are quite widespread but vulnerable to drainage, pollution and infilling.

The adults feed on live insects which they catch while in flight, particularly midges and mosquitoes. They also will take butterflies, moths and smaller dragonflies. The adults frequent sheltered, sunny glades where prey is plentiful. Eggs are deposited in, or near, fresh water or into aquatic vegetation.

The larvae prey on a variety of aquatic organisms and moult several times over a period of months, or years depending on species.

How you can help

Dragonflies are attractive and just about as easy to identify as birds.  We are very short of dragonfly recorders in Scotland so if you live here or are just visiting on holiday, please do send in your dragonfly records to the British Dragonfly Society to help us determine the health of our dragonfly populations. 

Last updated on Monday 2nd March 2015 at 11:12 AM. Click here to comment on this page