11 March 2010

Red & Blue Damsel - Xanthagrion erythroneurum

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Red and Blue Damselfly - Xanthagrion erythroneurum

Damselflies and Dragonflies both belong to the Order Odonata, they are then divided into the Suborders of Zygoptera for Damselflies and Anisoptera for Dragonflies. Damselflies physically differ by having wings that taper from the wing apex to their attachment and are usually held close to the abdomen. Dragonflies hold their wings stiffly at right-angles to their body. The larvae also have three long gills at the base of their abdomen, whereas Dragonfly larvae have none. There are 12 Damselfly families in Australia with 37 genera and 112 species (Australian Faunal Directory). Xanthagrion erythroneurum belongs to the Coenagrionidae family and is the only species in the Xanthagrion genus.

Generally, damselflies tend to remain at rest more than dragonflies and are mostly encountered clinging to vegetation in or around an aquatic environment, which may be fast flowing or a quiet pond. The Red & Blue Damselfly prefers the slower moving or still water habitat, where the more common male takes up a territory to attract a female, which is then defended against other males. This is likely to be more successful if there are aquatic plants projecting from the water, on which the female can lay her eggs.

With Xanthagrion erythroneurum, the colours of the male and female are somewhat similar, although the male is usually a brighter red or orange and has a couple of bright blue bands near the base of the abdomen. The slightly duller female has only narrow blue bands, plus a wider pale underbelly.

This damselfly has a wide distribution, occurring in all Australian States, plus New Caledonia, Fiji and New Zealand. Like most damselflies the Red & Blue Damsel is an excellent flier, catching live prey on the wing. Despite their extensive distribution most would be permanent residents around suitable waterways where it is not unusual to have a single male guarding quite a large territory, although others quickly move in when females arrive.

Update 21/03/2010
Two photographs added.