A Dragonfly a Day- Large Red Damselfly

Originally published 07/07/2015.

The Large Red Damselfly, Pyrrhosoma nymphula, is very common and widespread in the UK and is therefore a very common damselfly to be spotted. It also emerges earliest in the season, in late March/early April, so is often one of the first damselflies of the season to be spotted.


The Large Red Damselfly inhabits a large variety of habitats including ponds, ditches, bogs, rivers, streams, canals and lakes. It does avoid fast-flowing waters but will occupy most wetland habitats. It is widespread in Britain, being found almost everywhere and is very common.


Both sexes have black legs and black wing spots. They also have red eyes and yellow sides to the thorax.

Male: red abdomen with brown-black bands on segments 7-10. The thorax also has a brown-black top and stripe across the side. This brown-black colouration can be hard to see in strong sunlight.

Female: there are three females forms: melanotum, typica, and fulvipes.

The most common form is typica, in which the female looks similar to the male with a red abdomen but has more extensive brown-black markings compared to the male.
The melanotum form is the darkest of the three, in which the abdomen is mostly black, with some red and yellow markings and yellow shoulder stripes. This form can look similar to the Red-eyed damselfly.
The third form, fulvipes, is an intermediate between typica and melanotum, showing a dark abdomen with lots of red markings.


Often seen on vegetation around the water’s edge. They favour pale objects and will often land on clothing, books, recording sheets and hats! Males are fairly aggressive and will interact with a variety of passing insects. They can fly fairly quickly during warm weather, sometimes being mistaken for dragonfly species, however their small size and thin body should tell them apart from dragonfly’s.

Similar Species

The Large Red looks similar to the Small Red Damselfly, Ceriagrion tenellum, but can be told apart from this species as the Small Red Damselfly has red legs and red wing spots, as opposed to black in the Large Red. The Small Red is also slightly smaller in comparison however this is difficult to see if they are not side by side.

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Rachel Davies

Rachel Davies

Currently studying for an MRes in Wildlife Conservation at the University of Chester. Research focuses on the White-faced Darter, an endangered dragonfly species here in Britain. Rachel also has a blog titled 'working with wildlife'.
Rachel Davies

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