The large red damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) is the first of our odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) to emerge each year and it is a sure indicator that things are warming up and summer is coming! Warming water temperatures in ponds where the nymphs live trigger their emergence. It can be seen as early as March in a mild spring and is at its peak in July. There is a small red damselfly which is far less widespread and emerges in the autumn so, in spring and summer, if you see a red coloured damselfly is certainly going to be this one.
The large red damselfly is also one of the most common and certainly the most widespread of our damselflies as it will quickly colonise new pools of fresh water when they appear. We created a new pond in our garden when we moved to Dorset and within two years we had large red damselflies in tandem, laying eggs back in to the pond in which they were born. The males can be fiercely territorial and will defend their patch of water against all comers!
The male is bright red and the female has golden patches merged in with the red on each segment of the abdomen. The female also appears in a darker melanistic form. Both are lovely to look at close up but are so easily overlooked.