Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Common garden damselflies and dragonflies in the Hull area

Although a total of 23 species of dragonflies and damselflies have been recorded in Hull, only a subset of them can be considered regular in gardens, and a few species will even turn up in gardens without a pond. Here, I will present seven of the species most common in gardens, with identification tips. These species provide a useful benchmark to help you to identify rarer dragonflies and damselflies when in other habitats.

Damselflies
Two species of damselfly are common in gardens, where they regularly breed. They are even tolerant of fish, provided there are areas of thicker vegetation where their larvae can seek refuge, and will be even present in ornamental ponds with hard edges. Both are blue and black. 
1. Azure Damselfly
The Azure Damselfly gives an all vivid blue impression, it has a distinctive black hook or spur pointing forward on the side of its thorax, which distinguishes it in our area from the Common Blue Damselfly. I should have said males are all blue, as females are often green and black, as in the photo above. They can be found even in tiny garden ponds, provided they have plenty of vegetation near or in the pond. It flies from early May to early August.
2. Blue-tailed Damselfly
The Blue-tailed damselfly is the most common species recorded in Hull. It tolerates of all sorts of conditions: brackish ponds, polluted ponds, fish, and even poor weather! It  It has been described as a 'flying magic wand', as its black abdomen contrasts with the blue band near the tip. It has a distinctive two-colour wing spot, which is useful to identify females, which come in 5 different colour forms. It has a long flying season, from late April to late September.

Dragonflies
3. Broad-bodied Chaser
This is a stunning dragonfly, the immatures are yellow and brown, with dark wing bases and a characteristic wide abdomen. In flight it is very reminiscent of a hornet. Mature males develop a powdery blue colour in their abdomen. This is a species likely to use newly built ponds, or ponds with plenty of bare or muddy margins. They fly early in the season, from mid May to mid August.

4. Migrant Hawker
This is the most common hawker in Hull, and is regularly found in gardens away from water. The individual pictured is a mature male, but it is immatures that are commonly found in gardens, and these have subdued colours and milky eyes. They tend to fly in the open at 3-5 m high, often going round and round in a relatively small area. It tolerates other individuals, which will congregate in gardens with plenty of food. It flies from late July to late October or early November. Although plentiful in gardens during their immature stage, they tend to breed in lakes and ditches. 
The usual view of a flying migrant hawker over a garden.


5. Southern hawker
A large colourful hawker, one of the most strikingly marked. The combination of apple green and blue markings in mature individuals is characteristic, as their habit of being curious towards humans, flying close as if checking you out. It tends to hawk close to the ground alongside paths and close to tree canopies, often in shaded, sheltered places. Females will lay eggs on floating wood or marginal vegetation in relatively shaded ponds. It has a long flight season, from mid-June until October.


6. Common Darter
A small dragonfly that hunts from the ground, or a perch, to which it returns. Immature individuals are yellow, but males become orangey-red, with two yellow panels on the side of the thorax. All individuals have a thin yellow stripe alongside their legs. One of the most common dragonflies. It can breed in garden ponds of medium or large size and including ornamental ponds. It has a long flight season, from June until November.

7. Ruddy Darter
The Ruddy Darter is less common than the Common Darter. It prefers to hunt from a perch, or from the ground, to which it returns after catching prey. Males have a more intense red than the common darter and a more waisted abdomen. Immature individuals and females are orange/yellow. The legs in both sexes are black. Flies from mid June to mid October. It breeds in ponds with plenty of marginal vegetation, although it can roam, and can be found in gardens away from ponds.

More information
  • If you are interested in identifying dragonflies and damselflies, Yorkshire Dragonfly Group has plenty of information on all the species and interesting sites to visit and runs an active Facebook group.
  • If you have any dragonfly records from your garden in the Hull area you can either submit the record to iRecord, or message me in the blog comments or on Twitter.
  • For more information on Hull Dragonflies and damselflies you can read the City of Dragons 2019 report here.

1 comment: