Azure Damselfly

Name

Coenagrion puella (Linnaeus, 1758)

Family:

Coenagrionidae

Status in Britain and Ireland:

common and widespread except in Scotland

Local Status:

common

Size:

Overall body length 33-35mm
Hindwing length 15-24mm

Flight period:

Mid May until early August

Azure Damselfly male
Photograph ©  J. Almond

Male Azure Damselfly

The body is bright blue. Narrow blue antehumeral stripes are present on the thorax. On the side of the thorax are 2 narrow black lines. The top line is incomplete and described as a spur. On segment 2 there is a black U shape. On segment 9 there is a black bowtie shaped mark. Eyes are blue. Wings are clear with a black pterostigma. Legs are black with a blue line down the femur. The male is described as a snooker player with a cue (spur on thorax), bowtie (segment 9) and beer glass (segment 2). A side view of the male is shown in additional photographs at the bottom of the page.

Azure Damselfly female
Female green form. Photograph © B. Smith

Female Azure Damselfly

There are 2 female forms, a green form and a far less common blue form (shown in additional photographs at the bottom of the page). The body of the green form is mainly black dorsally with yellow-green visible between segments 3-7 and blue between segments 7-10. On segment 2 there is a thistle head pattern in black. The blue form also has the thistle head pattern, but has less black on abdominal segments3-6 where the blue bands are wider. Eyes are blue or green respectively as is the stripe on the femur.

Similar Species

In Shropshire confusion is most likely between this species and Common Blue Damselfly and Variable Damselfly. Male Common Blue Damselflies have a ‘lollipop’ shape on segment 2, no spur on the side of the thorax, far broader antehumeral stripes and solid blue segments 8 and 9 with no black bowtie shape. Male Variable Damselflies have a goblet shape on segment 2, a more extensive black mark on segment 9 and broken antehumeral stripes. On close inspection the trailing edge of the pronotum is more deeply lobed in Variable Damselfly.
Female Common Blue Damselflies have a spine present below segment 8 which is absent in Azure Damselfly. Female Common Blue Damselflies also lack a spur on the side of the thorax. The female Variable Damselfly can vary in appearance and though far less common is most reliably distinguished from Azure Damselfly by close inspection of the trailing edge of the pronotum. As with the males, this is more deeply lobed in the Variable Damselfly.

Behaviour

This species is not territorial. The males fly low over the water and perch on top of marginal waterside vegetation from where they can watch for females. Ovipostion takes place in tandem where the eggs are laid into floating or submerged vegetation.

Habitat

Found across a wide range of still water habitats but generally prefers smaller ponds and ditches with some shelter and emergent vegetation.

Shropshire Distribution

Historic records date back to 1917 at The Albynes, Nordley (north west of Bridgnorth) followed by a handful of records made at Whixall Moss (1932 and 1950), Cricket Pool near Bromfield (1955) and a number of sightings on the Montgomery and Shropshire Union Canals (1959). Butler (1982) described this species as present ‘throughout the county’ and Lockton et al., (1996) as ‘very common and widespread’. This is still very much the case today and current distribution maps show a great deal of infilling within the previously recorded range – most likely due to increased recorder effort.

Shropshire Distribution Map (SEDN)

© Crown copyright 2016 OS 100049049

Where to see in Shropshire

Numerous sites throughout the county such as Attingham Park, Cole Mere, Dudmaston, Discovery Centre at Craven Arms, Pole Cottage and Wildmoor Pool on the Long Mynd, Montgomery Canal, Wyre Forest and Telford Town Park.

National Distribution

Additional Photographs

Azure Damselfly male
Side view of male. Photograph © J. Almond
Azure Damselfly female
Female blue form. Photograph © B. Smith
Azure Damselfly pair
Copulating pair. Photograph © M. Randall