Anisoptera – Dragonflies
Dragonflies are insects in the sub-order Anisoptera (meaning “unequal-winged”). Hind wings are usually shorter and broader than forewings. They are usually large, strong-flying insects that can often be found flying well away from water. When at rest, they hold their wings out from the body, often at right angles to it.
Dragonflies can be found throughout the Thame Valley from June till mid Autumn but they aren’t often easy to see clearly as they are either darting about at a great speed or height, or quietly roosting, often in trees or else so well camouflaged that they are difficult to spot.
Zygoptera – Damselflies
Damselflies are insects in the sub-order Zygoptera (meaning “paired-wings”). All four wings are near enough equal in size and shape. They are usually small, weak-flying insects that stay close to the water margins or water surface. When at rest, most species hold their wings along the length of their abdomen. The Emerald Damselflies are an exception and usually hold their wings partly open when at rest.
Along the length of the Thame, you can find a number of damselfly species on the surface of the river and along the reedy river banks, but you have to look carefully as they are mostly very slender and easily missed. The earliest to appear is the Azure Damselfly and the most common is the Banded Demoiselle, which is also the largest and most easily seen.
They usually prefer slow-running shallow water or ponds so it is worth looking at the drainage ditches and back-waters for these lovely creatures.