Dragonflies / Damselflies

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What are Dragonflies/damselflies?

There are thought to be 36 species of dragonfly in the UK with all having varying habitat requirements. Clean and shallow waters with abundant water plants are the most basic requirements for most species of dragonfly and these can be part of a lake, pond, river, stream, ditch or canal although none are likely to be found in faster moving waters.

Their life cycles all consist of an egg, larva (or nymph) and adult stage although the length of time spent in each stage can also vary greatly between species. Eggs can be laid in plant material, rotten wood, mud, in stream beds or deposited directly into the water. Dragonflies spend most of their lives in their larval stage and can moult up to 14 times before they’re fully grown.  All the British dragonflies develop in water and depending on the species, the larval stage can last from two months to more than five years in the case of the Golden-ringed Dragonfly.

Why are Dragonflies / damselflies important to the Surrey Hills?

The condition of dragonfly habitat and successful breeding is threatened by:

  • Poor water quality.
  • Removal of bankside and aquatic vegetation
  • Access by livestock damaging bankside and aquatic vegetation
  • Invasive plant species dominating aquatic vegetation.

What habitat do Dragonflies/damselflies like?


Water is the dominant component of many of our most diverse and valuable habitats.  The running water of rivers, streams and ditches; static water bodies in natural lakes and ponds, ephemeral features such as winterbournes and dew ponds, manmade reservoirs and restored gravel pits with canals having the appearance of manmade rivers but more characteristic of a still water body. Water is also vital in terrestrial habitats such as marsh, fen, bog, reedbeds and carr woodland, where its presence is a permanent requirement.   In Surrey it’s estimated that water as habitat (both aquatic and wetland habitats) occupy 3,516 hectares or 2.1% of the county’s land area.   The list of bird, mammal, insect, amphibian, fish and plant species that rely on wetland and aquatic habitats is immense.

What can be done to benefit Dragonflies/damselflies?

Good management and habitat creation opportunities for the dragonflies would include:
  • Allowing bankside vegetation to develop along rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and ditches
  • Rotational cutting of bankside vegetation in small sections and over a long time span if possible
  • Designing new ponds with dragonflies in mind and don’t introduce fish or domestic waterfowl
  • Taking all necessary steps to avoid the introduction of invasive plant species
Creating and managing areas for Dragonflies/damselflies will help deliver the following benefits to communities:
  • Clean water
  • Clean air
  • Protection from and mitigation of environmental hazards
  • Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change
  • Thriving plants and wildlife
  • Beauty, heritage and engagement

These illustrations are by an artist taking part in a programme delivered by Watts Gallery Trust and funded by the Michael Varah Memorial Fund. This series of 30 Surrey Hills Indicator Species were commissioned by Surrey Hills Society and funded by Surrey Hills Trust Fund as part of the Making Space for Nature Exhibition.