The beautiful demoiselle

, 28 June 2017
The beautiful demoiselle
Paul Marten

By Charlotte Owen

WildCall Officer

Easily mistaken at first glance for a fluttering butterfly, the beautiful demoiselle is now on the wing. The word ‘beautiful’ is part of this exotic-looking damselfly’s official scientific name, rather than a mere description, and it’s very well deserved.You’ll know when you’ve seen one because it’s the only damselfly species with completely coloured wings - the closest contender being the banded demoiselle, which is also aptly named for the deep blue-banded wings of the males, as if they’ve been dabbed with a giant black marker pen. These two species both belong to the family Calopterygidae and are termed demoiselles (from the French for damsel) to distinguish them from the rest of the damselflies.

Male beautiful demoiselles are metallic blue-green with strikingly dark wings that appear almost black until the light catches them and reveals an iridescent blue sheen. Their flight is languid and twirling and their broad wings are easily buffeted by a breeze, so they prefer the shelter of well-vegetated riverbanks.Males tend to perch on a stem, wings held together along the body, lying in wait for a passing female.Her wings are a lustrous bronze and the metallic green of her body has a glimmering golden sheen.Females range up and down river in search of suitable egg-laying sites, so males establish themselves in prime locations and wait. As soon as a female enters a male’s territory he will court her with a fluttering dance and curl up his abdomen to display the bright underside of the last three segments, known as the ‘lantern’. Then he’ll take her for a tour of his chosen nursery site and if she’s suitably impressed the pair will mate, locked in a vaguely heart-shaped embrace for up to five minutes. Afterwards, they’ll flutter back to the water and he’ll fend off rival males while she deposits her eggs on aquatic plants, happily submerging herself in the process. The eggs take just two weeks to hatch but the stick-like larvae then spend two years underwater before emerging into the light and transforming into glorious adults.

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  • Ann Griffiths:

    Saw a beautiful male on Fingle Bridge in Devon on a quintessential summer day. Gorgeous!

    07 Jul 2017 17:32:22

  • Mary Starling:

    I have just spent a happy hour watching a male in my small garden in Rye. They are unusual here, as the water is low lying and pretty slow.

    12 Aug 2017 13:07:32

  • Sue Wellfare:

    Had one of this over my pond in North Lancing (BN15) today….first time I’ve seen one of these. (28/5/18)

    28 May 2018 13:27:40

  • Mark Burdass:

    Saw one today at the school! Harlands School Haywards Heath, we have a small stream running through the grounds so I guess this is where it came from. Never seen one before – SO BEAUTIFUL, the children in my Y4 class were transfixed! Thanks for posting this article; I wondered what it was and told the children that I would try to find out.

    21 Jun 2018 20:25:57

  • Mrs Barbara Roskell:

    I have just seen my first Beautiful Demoiselle on a stream in West Ashling. There were two of them doing a dance above the water. So pleased to have identified them. I have lived in West Sussex all my life and never seen one before.

    07 Jul 2019 14:09:00

  • Jeff & Kath Williams:

    Two males and one female seen on bank of river in Upper Gardens Bournemouth 8/7/19

    14 Jul 2019 19:50:00

  • Susan Williams & Brian Jones:

    We’ve just spotted a male Beautiful Demoiselle in our wildlife garden in North Wales. Very excited as we’ve never seen one before!

    13 Aug 2019 15:11:00

  • Shar Brown:

    Seeing a number of male beautiful demoiselle was the highlight of a walk along the Brede valley today, with mayfly and buzzards too. Thank you for helping me find out more about them.

    24 May 2020 16:00:00

  • Anita salter:

    We were out walking on the 24th May 2020 near Ashurst. Saw several of the Beautiful demoiselle along the small streams. Also two buzzard, being chased off by other birds, lovely morning out of lockdown!

    25 May 2020 13:32:00

  • Paul Kent:

    Just had one of these beautiful creatures fly into the garden in Tunbridge Wells. Not remotely near a riverbank. Can only assume the breeze has taken him or he’s lost.

    29 May 2020 11:45:00

  • Carly:

    Many spotted by the River Itchen in Hampshire today (15 June 2020, 11.30am)- my 12 year old son and I though they were butterflies at first, beautiful sight!

    15 Jun 2020 16:47:00

  • Sophia Woollams:

    Spotted a male in Harlow along the Canal. Unbelievable colour

    16 Jun 2020 12:29:00

  • James Ellis:

    Spotted a male at Woods Mill in Sussex. Initially thought it was a very unusual butterfly!

    14 Jul 2020 16:43:00

  • James Ellis:

    Spotted a male at Woods Mill in Sussex. Initially thought it was a very unusual butterfly!

    14 Jul 2020 18:32:00

  • James Ellis:

    Spotted a male at Woods Mill in Sussex. Initially thought it was a very unusual butterfly!

    17 Jul 2020 16:07:00

  • Steph:

    Spotted in Petts Wood, Kent/Greater London. So striking.

    18 Jun 2021 19:36:00

  • Andrea Clare Dixon:

    I spotted two males flying around at Wicksteed park, Kettering. I had to look them up as I’ve never seen them before. They’re absolutely stunning.

    04 Jul 2021 04:07:00

  • Joanna Blackburn:

    Just seen my first ever demoiselle in my garden in North Lincolnshire. So beautiful.

    16 Jul 2021 09:37:00

  • Dan:

    Just seen the lovely male Beautiful Demoiselle in my West Sussex garden. First one I’ve ever seen. Stunning.

    22 May 2022 10:57:00

  • Jenny Negus:

    One male Beautiful Demoiselle joined me and my baby for a spot of lunch in my kitchen today. Flew in and out a few times. Live in Bexhill on Sea – no stream nearby that I’m aware of.

    27 May 2022 18:37:00

  • Jo:

    How brilliant, I just used Google lens to tell me what this wonderful little critter was after seeing one at fingle bridge, only to see the first comment below from Ann saying this is where she saw them in 2017!

    07 Jun 2022 16:52:00

  • Lucy Godden:

    Stunning. Saw a pair of these for the first time, on the R. Arun, Horsham, one evening a couple of weeks ago. Thank you Sussex Wildlife Trust for helping me ID them!

    24 Jun 2022 12:20:00