Dragonflies and Damselflies


    Dragonflies and damselflies are insects belonging to the order Odonata, which means 'toothed jaws'. Typically they have large eyes, two pairs of wings and are very mobile aerial hunters of other insects. They all breed in water though different species have preferences regarding still or running water, the size of water body, vegetation, etc. Their larvae live and develop in water and are ferocious predators of midge larvae and small invertebrates. Some species take up to 4 years to develop before climbing up waterside vegetation to metamorphosise into the beautiful adults we are familiar with.

    There are around 5,300 species worldwide but only about 120 in Europe and just 38 breed in Britain. The number of species in Leicestershire and Rutland changes over time but is around 26. A few species used to breed in our area but no longer do so. On the other hand, one or two species are expanding and have begun to breed here in recent years, such as the Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas). A few species are strong flyers and can migrate over large distances. See the checklist below for a full description of all the species found in Leicestershire and Rutland.

    Leicestershire and Rutland resources

    Checklist and status of Leicestershire and Rutland odonata.

    Other useful resources

    Dragonflies - internet

    Dragonflies - books

    British Dragonfly Society - excellent images of all UK species. Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland - excellent book with wonderful illustrations and interesting text.

    Britain's Dragonflies: A Field Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of Britain and Ireland (Wild Guide) - another excellent book, highly recommended.

    If you know of other websites or books that you would recommend, do let us know: info@naturespot.co.uk

    Recording Schemes

    In VC55 the County Recorder for dragonflies and damselflies is Ian Merrill.

    As with all records, any submissions you make to NatureSpot will be automatically forwarded to both local and national recording schemes.


    Most dragonflies and damselflies can be identified in the field, particularly if close-focus binoculars are used. Virtually all can be identified from a decent photograph.