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Dragonflies and damselflies bounce back from tough year - Durham Wildlife Trust

Black darter mating with common darter (c) Mal Wilkinson
Black darter mating with common darter (c) Mal Wilkinson

A survey into numbers of dragonflies and damselflies in the Durham Wildlife Trust area has shown that the insects have bounced back spectacularly after a challenging 2018.

The Trust-led project entered its fifth year in 2019 and surveys were carried out by volunteers who adopted sites in their local area and recorded dragonfly and damselfly larva and adults.

The previous year, 2018, was a year of extreme weather that had a significant impact on dragonflies in the Durham Wildlife Trust region. Firstly, during the whole of March, a large Arctic air mass stretched from Russia and the Far East to the British Isles (the ‘Beast From The East’) and brought with it significant snowfall and icy conditions, which had an adverse impact on some dragonfly and damselfly species.

Then June 2018 was the hottest on record since 1915 and the hot weather continued well into September, resulting in many wetland and pond areas drying up completely, which destroyed both eggs and larvae.

The weather in 2019 was very different and the region was awash with dragonflies and damselflies. First to emerge at the end of April was the large red damselfly, easy to identify partly as they are bright red and black. The last to be seen, at the Trust’s Rainton Meadows reserve near Houghton le Spring, in November was the migrant hawker, which survived two weeks of frost before finally bowing out.

Michael Coates, the Durham Wildlife Trust Trustee who organises the surveys and training for volunteers, said: “The survey effort this time has been truly outstanding. Watching dragonflies is an experience I think everyone would enjoy. The information gathered enables Durham Wildlife Trust to get a clearer picture of how dragonflies and damselflies are faring in Durham against national trends and helps the Trust monitor the wetland habitats these insects rely on. Dragonflies and damselflies are ideal indicators of wetland health because their larvae develop over quite a long period of time in the water.‘’

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