Dragonflies belong to the insect order called Odonata. They are amongst the most distinctive of insects, with large eyes, two pairs of wings and are often brightly coloured. The group is often divided into two – the true dragonflies (Anisoptera) and the daintier damselflies (Zygoptera). Damselflies are small, delicate insects with a very slim body. They have a relatively weak flight and their eyes are always separated – never touching. At rest, the forewings of most species are held along the body. True dragonflies are larger, more robust insects. They have a larger body and strong flight. Their large compound eyes meet in the middle. At rest their wings are usually held at 90 degrees to their body.
Ayrshire has 10 resident species of dragonfly which are known to breed in the region. Most are widespread, occurring on ponds, lochs and other waterbodies across the region. The most frequently encountered damselfly species are the Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula and Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum which occur widely throughout the region.
Others more locally include the Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa and Azure Damselfy Coenagrion puella, Of the larger dragonfly species the Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum, Golden-ringed Dragonfly Cordulegaster boltonii and Common Hawker Aeshna juncea are the most frequently recorded. Under-recording throughout Ayrshire may well mask the true distribution of many species.
There is potential for the colonisation of new species in future years. Dumfries and Galloway has seen the increased occurrence (and confirmed breeding) of Emperor Dragonfly Anax imperator and Southern Hawker Aeshna cyanea in recent years and both are non-specialists which could find a home in Ayrshire.
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