Large red damselfly: some great pictures of the larvae

 

Larva of the Large Red Damselfly (from the Everything Is Permuted site)

Larva of the Large Red Damselfly (from the Everything Is Permuted site)

The picture above is one from another excellent series by Paul at Everything is Permuted.

Have a look at the whole series on the larvae of the Large Red Damselfly (known to entomologists as Pyrrhosoma nymphula – pronounced pi-ro-so-ma nim-few-la).

The larvae of this damselfly are the easiest of the damselflies to identify to species, in a group where identifying larvae often looks dauntingly difficult.

Its a damselfly because it’s long and thin, with three plate-like tails (technically called lamellae).

What makes it a Large Red larva: the dark chocolaty brown colour, the dark marking half-way down each lamella, the rather square shaped head.

Large red damselflies will breed in the smallest ponds: my Dad’s pond is about 1 metre x 1 metre, with a depth of about 10 cm – so no more than 6 inches. 

Large red’s are the first damselflies to emerge in the spring and are one of our most widespread freshwater animals, as the distribution map below shows.

 

The distribution of the Larre Red Damselfy in Great Britain and Ireland. Each dot represents 10 km x 10 km squares of the Ordnance Survey national grid where the animal has been seen

The distribution of the Large Red Damselfly in Great Britain and Ireland. Each dot represents 10 km x 10 km squares of the Ordnance Survey national grid where the animal has been seen. Source: the National Biodiversity Network gateway.

There is only one other kind of damselfly that Large Red’s can be confused with – not very helpfully known as the Small Red Damselfly (it’s not much smaller). But the Small Red is a much more exacting animal needing acid water mainly in the south of England and Wales. It has never been recorded in a garden pond.

Now, there’s a challenge for a dragonfly fan living in Hampshire, or Devon or West Wales. 

 

The distribution of the Small Red Damselfy (Ceriagrion tenellum) in Great Britain and Ireland. Each dot represents 10 km x 10 km squares of the Ordnance Survey national grid where the animal has been seen. Source the National Biodiversity Network gateway.

The distribution of the Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) in Great Britain and Ireland. Each dot represents 10 km x 10 km squares of the Ordnance Survey national grid where the animal has been seen. Source: the National Biodiversity Network gateway.

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2 Responses to “Large red damselfly: some great pictures of the larvae”

  1. shona Says:

    I have just seen a very strange creature in my pond and would really appreciate help in identifying it – even if it is direction to a specialist.

    It was:
    approx 5″ long. Had a mid brown, hammer shaped head, with darker body which tapered off to a point at the other end. The body looked as though it was covered in a kind of shell – like an armadillo.

    It was swimming along the bottom of a fairly large (20 ‘ x 30’) garden pond at the edge.

    Any ideas?

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Hi Shona

      Hmmm…..it looked like an armadillo – so some kind of a thing with segments.

      Five inches is quite big – theoretically too big for a dragonfly larva (even one of the big hawker larvae) – but that seems the most likely thing. They do have hammerhead shaped heads.

      If it really was five inches long the only invert that big would be a small crayfish – but they don’t have hammerhead shaped heads.

      Can you get any kind of picture? Even a cameraphone snap would do.

      Jeremy

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