Friday, April 04, 2014

Damsels in distressCommon Darter dragonfly: Picture by Ian & Gill McColl


Common Darter dragonfly: Picture by Ian & Gill McColl
The wettest winter since records began could have damaged dragonfly and damselfly populations for years to come say the Canal & River Trust — and it is asking people to monitor the insects as part of its annual Great Nature Watch which starts today. 
 Fluctuating river levels and fast currents are known to wash away dragonfly larva (or nymphs) an as larva live underwater for up to three years, the recent floods may have a long-term effect on dragonfly populations.

Canal & River Trust group environment manager, Peter Birch, said: “Dragonflies, and their sister damselflies, flourish in clean water which is rich in bankside vegetation, such as reeds. This makes them a fantastic indicator of the health of a canal or river. While this year’s floods have had an obvious impact on larger animals, birds and fish, we are also particularly concerned with the impact on invertabrates, which form the foundation stones of a healthy water environment. We would expect to see an increase in numbers of mosquitoes and midges which prefer stagnant and isolated water, but we may also see a drop in the numbers of dragonflies emerging this Spring."

Dragonflies are an ancient species, whose ancestors were around before the dinosaurs. While many of us recognise them as beautiful flying summer insects, they spend most of their lives as underwater larva. They emerge ‘on the wing’ for a few brief months to mate and lay their eggs before dying.



The Great Nature Watch asks you to record your sightings of all wildlife you see on a canal, river, reservoir or lake. Records can be submitted by downloading the Trust’s free mobile app or online at www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/great-nature-watch.

Anyone can take part, and record as many sightings as they like between now and September.
Damselflies mating: Picture by Ian & Gill McColl