Oh no they don’t….

Large Red Damselflies laying eggs in the semi-submerged leaves of Fool's Watercress in my New Pond

I read, in a very current (April 2010) article, that the eggs of the Large Red Damselfly are ‘….normally laid in the petioles (leaf stalks) of Broad-leaved Pondweed (Potamogeton natans).’

I did a bit of a double take when I read this because I knew for a fact that it wasn’t true.

In our Old Pond there is no Broad-leaved Pondweed but there are plenty of Large Red Damselflies.  I’ve mostly seen them lay their eggs in dead, floating, leaves that have fallen in the water from the overhanging bushes, and into the stems of the reedmace, just below the water line – and they’ve probably used other spots, too, when I haven’t been looking.

In our New Pond (which also has no Broad-leaved Pondweed) the Fool’s Watercress (above) is a nice place for egg-laying – in the leaves just below the water line.

In the Abingdon garden ponds – none of which have Broad-leaved Pondweed – nearly half the ponds have Large Red Damseflies. So none of these damselflies used Broad-leaved Pondweed to lay their eggs in either.

And looking on a slightly larger scale – the whole of the UK – we found Large Red Damselflies in about 2/3rd of all the ponds we surveyed in the National Pond Survey. But we only found Broad-leaved Pondweed in  one-third of the ponds. So at the very best, half the places where the damselflies were found didn’t have the pondweed.

It looks like it would be more accurate to say that normally the eggs of Large Red Damselflies are not laid in the leaf stalks of Broad-leaved Pondweed – or indeed any other part of Broad-leaved Pondweed – though being a plant of admirable parentage it’s certainly one of the species they will use if it’s available.

Actually, my impression is that Large Red’s seem to be rather catholic in the choice of places to lay their eggs – practically any plant material, dead or alive, at or close to the water surface, floating or attached, seems to do.

Just goes to show – it’s not just the papers that you shouldn’t believe. Sometimes things called ‘The Journal of………..’ can be suspect too.


7 Responses to “Oh no they don’t….”

  1. Diana Says:

    I was interested to read this because although I have seen what I think was a Large Red damselfly, I have not seen it lay eggs. I have seen a blue damselfly laying eggs in our pond. This is the old pond which was not intended to be a wildlife pond but to hold fish. So the oxygenator is pondweed, I am sorry to say, which is where the damselfly was laying eggs. There is also other plant material, leaves, etc through which the eggs were being laid. Do the blue damselflies lay eggs in similar places as the red? Perhaps I could send you a couple of photos, not very good as I am not an expert. I did get a rather good video though of the damselfly laying eggs. Our water beetle larvae are currently looking for banks in which to pupate I think as they keep climbing out of the pond. But not having much luck as the surrounds are paving although there are gaps underneath because I have seen frogs disappear into them. What would happen to the larvae if they were unable to find the right place to pupate – does it have to be out of the water? This evening I noticed some small black flies with a rather moth-like flight – would these be stoneflies?

  2. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Hi Diana

    Nothing wrong with Broad-leaved Pondweed if you’ve got it. It’s just not the only thing that Large Reds use.

    The small blue damsels (they’ll usually be one of three: Azure, Blue-tailed or Common Blue) all like laying in submerged plants.

    They do lay eggs in similar places to Large Reds but also do something Large Reds don’t: go right underwater to lay eggs.

    As far as I know diving beetle larvae only pupate out of water so I guess if they can’t find anywhere in due course they will, sadly, die.

    Small black flies are probably caddis – though you might have stoneflies. Have you ever seen two tailed larvae in the pond? Adult stoneflies are long and thin when resting, unlike the tent shaped pose of an adult caddis. They (that is stoneflies) always remind me a bit of a dark, winged, earwig!

    Love to see the photos – just send them to me at jbiggs@pondconservation.org.uk.

    • Diana Says:

      Unfortunately it is Canadian pondweed, as far as remember but that is not going in the new pond! Your description of long and thin when resting seems to fit the description – not sure if I have seen two tailed larvae in pond though but I might not have recognised them. I have seen one rather short larvae with a swimming motion which I can only describe as ‘penguin-like’. Not sure what that would be.

  3. Richard Says:

    I have the same, no pondweed in our pond and the Large Reds have been happily laying eggs on Starwort and Marsh as well as fallen leaves.
    The Azures seemed to prefer the Starwort and Crowfoot.

    Overall it seems they will lay on anything they can land on as long as it is in the pond!.

  4. Diana Says:

    Further to my comment above about flies – having studied them a bit more closely, pretty sure they are caddis flies. Apparently stoneflies don’t fly too much according to the article I was reading and these certainly flying about a great deal. The first ones that hatched looked more black than brown but we have some more which are a much lighter colour. The article also said stoneflies like running water – which we don’t have.

  5. Jeremy Biggs Says:

    Hi Diana

    Sounds like they are caddis – but your article wasn’t quite right to say that stoneflies like running water. It should say most stoneflies like running water.

    Stoneflies are indeed more widespread in running water than still water mainly because they need the cool, well-oxygenated, water.

    However, the Brown Stoneflies (the family Nemouridae) do live in ponds, typically with small spring inflows.

    We found them in maybe 10% of ponds in the National Pond Survey.

    They rather like acid places so I expect they are generally more common in ponds in Scotland.


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