Through the summer months, dragonflies will be emerging as winged adults from their larval form.Common Hawker emerging: Genevieve Leaper (rspb-images.com)
Unlike butterflies, they don’t go through a pupa /chrysalis stage with a hard exterior. When the days are long and the temperature is right, dragonfly larva crawl out of the water to spend a few days adjusting to breathing air before their final moult into the adult winged insect. The emerging process can take anything from 1-3 hours and can be seen in a clip from the RSPB here.
Emperor Tony Hamblin (rspb-images.com),
The clip shows the spectacular Emperor dragonfly, one of the UK’s largest species alongside the Golden-ringed dragonfly, the Common and Brown Hawkers, all of which can reach body lengths of 7-8cm with wing spans of 10-12cm. In East Anglia, Emperors are almost always spotted close to water but Hawker dragonflies may travel quite some distance away from water to hunt along ditches and woodland tracks.
Common Hawker Steve Knell (rspb-images.com), Brown Hawker Tony Hamblin (rspb-images.com)
The Golden-ringed Dragonfly with the longest body is found in Scotland, Cumbria, Southern England, and Wales around heath, moorland and mountain streams and occasionally ponds.
Golden ringed David Kjaer (rspb-images.com)
With a top speed of 30mph, dragonflies are one of the fastest insects in the UK and the noisiest in flight with their clattering four wings that beat independently rather than in pairs to enable them to hover as well as fly in any direction.
They will usually live the adult flying stage of their life for 1-4 months after possibly existing as a larva for 2-3 years or up to 5 in the case of the Golden-Ringed dragonfly larva.
Sadly, 36% of dragonfly species are in decline due to the loss of pond habitat through land development so adding a garden pond is the best way to help them have a home.
There are some helpful tips on how to dig a pond for dragonflies from the British Dragonfly Society plus, more fascinating details about their life-cycle.
If you’d like help in easily identifying some of our most common dragonflies and damselflies, a handy fold-out chart is available from the RSPB shop and further identification can be found online in this guide.
There's always an element of excitement when spotting a dragonfly, perhaps it's due to their size, grace and beauty and the fact that they are only around for a few short months of the year. Fingers crossed for spotting one in the landscape near you soon.
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