This is not a definitive list at all, it is really just to get you started with the identification of bright coloured buzzy things that you might see at your local plan d’eau or in your garden.
Recently I spent some time sitting by my local lake with my grandchildren and I overheard a lot of English conversations. Sometimes it was about the insects flying over the lake. Sometimes people knew what they were looking at but more often than not they were fairly vague or wrong.
So here we have a basic guide, there are Dragonflies and Damselflies. Fist the dragonflies, these are big or quite big, they are fast and when at rest they have their wings out, more or less at right angles to their body.
The biggest are Hawkers, these have long bodies and fly very fast, often patrolling up and down the same route.
Then we have the Chasers, these have a shorter broader body and are quite big.
The smallest are the Darters, but still bigger than a damselfly. When at rest they will often move their wings so that they point forward and down, but they still stick out quite a bit.
Now onto the Damselflies, these are quite delicate and have long thin bodies and quite narrow wings. They often hover or flutter about, they are not very fast. When at rest they fold their wings up and have them lined up with their body.
One group the agrions have slightly wider wings but still they fold them up in line with their bodies.
All dragonflies and damselflies have males and females with different colours, often the male is brighter and the female is a more dull colour. When they mate you can see this difference.
There are many different species and different ones will be out at different times of the year. They do not live for one day, as I heard someone tell his daughter, but hey have a relatively short life. The longest part of the life cycle is spent as a nymph in the water and depending on the species and the availability of food this can be anything from, just under a year to as much as three or four years. The bigger the species the longer it takes. When the nymph has fully developed it crawls out of the water, climbs up a reed or twig and hatches out into the adult. If you look carefully around the edge of a lake or pond you can often see the old case of a nymph still attached to a reed from when it hatched out.
So there you have it, If you want to identify which dragonfly or damselfly you have seen then this is a good web address, http://www.dragonflypix.com/database/foundcountry.php but be careful as many of the small blue damselflies look very similar. Not all damselflies are blue, some are red and some are green, even metallic green… Good luck.