Damselfly Emergence - Exuviae Everywhere!

Monday, May 13th 2024

The last couple of weeks at Foxglove Covert have seen the emergences of many Large Red Damselflies. One particularly warm, sunny day last week seemed to be enough to encourage lots of them to emerge. Walking along the boardwalk and platforms of the pond-dipping area, the cast skins (or exuviae) of the damselflies covered verticle wooden supports. Although well camoflauged and difficult to spot initially, once you knew what to look for it was hard to stop noticing them!

But how and why is this cast left behind? The transition of dragonflies and damselflies from their larval stage to adult stage is known as 'emergence'. Larvae move from the water body they were living in and on to a stable place out of the water. This is usually vegetation, such as rushes or reeds in or near the pond. Here at Foxglove Covert, the boardwalk and pond-dipping platform supports seem to be very popular places to emerge!

Once out of the water, the adult form of the damselflies can take an hour to fully emerge from their larval skin. Parts of the damselfly's adult body gradually emerge from the larvel skin, expanding and hardening. It also takes time for the full-adult colours to come through, with recently emerged adults looking much paler than the colours you might expect to see. What is left behind of the larval stage is known as an 'exuvia'.

During emergence and their first flights, adults are particularly vulnerable, particularly to rain and predators. The damselfly in the image below didn't get very far before getting caught in a spider's web.

When around waterbodies this spring and summer, why not try to spot emerging dragonflies, damselflies and their exuviae? Make sure to check man-made supports near the water as well as emergent vegetation!


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