Ischnura pumilio (Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly)

If there is a species with a more startling colour transformation between immature and mature – of the females, that is – I’d love to see it.

It took us a long time time to find some examples of these and then it required help from our friends. However, with their guidance we did find the well known Latchmore Brook population in 2016.

Our second meeting came in 2021 in Cornwall when, this time unaided, we stumbled across a population at Chapel Porth on the north coast of Cornwall. Being a discovery of our own, this was a little more exciting. The first I saw, I now realize, was a mature female but sadly it eluded my camera. Mature females are a rather nondescript dull green and black and consequently disappear readily in vegetation.

Interestingly, there used to be a population in our home county of Bedfordshire until “conservation” changed their habitat and they disappeared. I am now happy to report that they have again been recorded in 2022.

The males resemble I. elegans but are smaller and the tail light is shifted. [I have an identification/comparison chart.] The species has a strong preference for shallow water with little vegetation. The striking orange colour of the immature (aurantiaca) females is simply breathtaking.

Id Notes

  • short bi-coloured pterostigmas, larger in fore-wing than hind-wing.
  • ♂ – blue or green coloured eyes and thorax.
  • ♂ – blue tail light shifted down (cf. I. elegans) on back half of S8 & S9.
  • ♀ – no tail light
  • ♀ – rather dull green when mature
  • ♀ – stunning orange when immature; the so-called aurantiaca phase.
female (aurantiaca)
female (immature)
in tandem