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Small Red-eyed Damselfly

The Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma viridulum) first arrived in Britain in 1999. It was a breeding species by 2002 and has now spread across Eastern and South-eastern England.


Most often confused with the Red-eyed damselfly, the small red-eyed damselfly (or SRED as it's usually abbreviated) is tricky to distinguish in the field. The eyes are a browner shade of red compared to the tomato red of the red-eyed, the wings appear shorter and overall it seems smaller and weaker. From a distance you could mistake it for a Blue-tailed damselfly, but the blue is at the tip (segment 10) in the SRED not as a band (segment 8). One field characteristic is its habit of holding the tip of the abdomen curved upwards when resting. The defining point however, is the black X formed on the last segment of the male, as seen here.


It's worth remembering that species have spread to the UK before and ultimately failed to establish a viable population. Yellow-winged Darters bred in Norfolk for a number of years in the 1940's before ultimately vanishing. While many assume that the SRED is here to stay, 2005 was a poor year for them, as this report by the county dragonfly recorder shows: (links added by us)

Small Red-eyed Damselfly – A summary of 2001 to 2005

As it says in my book, the first Small Red-eyed Damselflies in Norfolk appeared along the east coast between Winterton and Eccles-on-Sea on August 14th 2001. Just over a week later they were being reported from several broadland sites inland including How Hill, Catfield Fen and East Ruston. A few days later they had reached Felbrigg, and Suffield south of Gunton.

In 2002 further records came from sites such as Winterton and How Hill, but there were also records from new sites at Brundall, Beeston Regis, and Thompson Water in the Brecks.

2003 saw more records from Winterton, Eccles-on-Sea, Catfield Fen, How Hill, East Ruston, and Beeston Regis, plus new sites at Strumpshaw Fen, Hickling Broad, Wymondham, Holt Lowes, Lound Waterworks and some ponds near the River Yare south of Norwich.

I personally witnessed a new wave of immigration along the east coast in August 2004, so it was hardly surprising that 2004 saw more records for the species than any other so far. Many of the above locations had repeat sightings. New sites included Cockshoot Broad, Barton Broad, Titchwell RSPB reserve, Welney Wildfowl Refuge, Swanton Morley, Burgh-St-Peter Marshes, Reedham Marshes, Pensthorpe Waterfowl Park, Sculthorpe Moor, Croxton Heath, Sparham Pools, Hoveton and Hempstead.

By contrast, I've had very few records for 2005. The only reports so far coming from Cley, Titchwell and Snettisham on the coast, plus Lower Bodham, Long Stratton and Aslacton inland. I have to admit I didn't see any myself for the first year since they arrived, and I tend to think they haven't managed to colonise many sites successfully here in Norfolk after all. However, I am still receiving and processing a trickle of record cards from other people, so there's just a slim chance of more records for 2005.

From experience, ID is quite straight forward, once you get your eye in. Given their habit of staying well out over the water, the blue extension on the underside of segment 8 is fairly easy to pick out using binoculars. If you do get lucky enough to see one from above or in the hand, then the black “x” on the top of segment 10 is also fairly distinctive. Other features such as size or the shade of red of the eyes are unreliable features for ID, because there is a great deal of overlap with the ordinary Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma najas.

Dr Pam Taylor, February 2006

2006 Update

This year saw another push into England from this species, with new reports from Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. Many recorders in counties where it was already present noted extra sites being colonised, and here in Norfolk it was recorded for the first time in Norwich (Bowthorpe Southern Park).

External Links

National Distribution Female Top View
Pair in Cop Male Side View
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