Sussex Dragonfly Group

Small Red-eyed Damselfly
Erythromma viridulum (Charpentier, 1840)
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Suborder: Zygoptera
Family: Coenagrionidae

Small Red-eyed Damselfly
Erythromma viridulum

Suborder: Zygoptera
Family: Coenagrionidae

This species that is relatively new to Sussex may present an initial challenge to distinguish it from the well-established Red-eyed Damselfly. However the differences between them are very obvious once one has got one’s eye in - and a telescope out! Apart from being much smaller, and having a fluttering flight, the diagnostic difference is that segment 8 of the male’s abdomen (i.e. above the blue ‘tail’) has two distinct blue marks at the sides, narrowing the black area. The eyes of the female are green, rather than brownish red as in the Red-eyed. Although still with a very limited range, it may be gaining a foothold and dispersing to other parts of the county.

Erythromma viridulum
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Male
Photo: Simon Linington
Erythromma viridulum
2 / 6
Male
Photo: David Sadler
Erythromma viridulum
3 / 6
Male
Photo: Simon Linington
Erythromma viridulum
4 / 6
Female
Photo: David Sadler
Erythromma viridulum
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Pair in tandem
Photo: Simon Linington
Erythromma viridulum
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Ovipositing pair
Photo: David Sadler

More images

National status
One of our newest species, it has changed in status from migrant to resident with the first breeding record as recently as 1999, in Essex (Dewick and Gerussi 2000).

Status in Sussex
The first (but still unconfirmed) sighting was at Pett Levels in 2000; the first confirmed one was by F. Lemoine on 10 August 2002 at Icklesham, with subsequent numbers building up to a maximum of 125 on 19 August (Hunter 2003), and with many pairs copulating and ovipositing. In 2003 additional colonies were discovered in the Cuckmere Valley by J. Luck (some 20 pairs). Since then it has spread to the Arun and Adur valleys, the High Weald and a few scattered sites in the west. It has also consolidated its position in the east of Sussex.

Distribution at 1km scale

Erythromma viridulum distribution (all)
Erythromma viridulum distribution pre 1980
Erythromma viridulum distribution 1980 - 1989
Erythromma viridulum distribution 1990 - 1999
Erythromma viridulum distribution 2000 - 2009
Erythromma viridulum distribution 2010 - 2019
Erythromma viridulum distribution 2010 on

Historical records
The first British record followed a dramatic expansion of its range in Europe in the previous 30 years.

Flight times
Mid to late June - early September.

Phenology (adult)

Erythromma viridulum phenology (all)
Erythromma viridulum phenology pre 1980
Erythromma viridulum phenology 1980 - 1989
Erythromma viridulum phenology 1990 - 1999
Erythromma viridulum phenology 2000 - 2009
Erythromma viridulum phenology 2010 - 2019
Erythromma viridulum phenology 2010 on
Erythromma viridulum habitat
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Small Red eyed Damselfly habitat at Sheffield Park
Photo: Simon Linington

Habitat
Mainly lakes and ponds with floating vegetation, but the males tend to stay even further away from the banks than the Red-eyed Damselfly. This is true in France where this species is very common but very rarely seen near banks (D. Chelmick, pers. comm.). There is also a preference for submerged vegetation where it breaks the water’s surface.

Conservation
As a species rapidly expanding its range, the Small Red-eyed Damselfly may not yet demand any particular conservation efforts. For now, it is worth monitoring its current sites to note any habitat preferences, and to survey other sites being colonised.

Similar species
The male of this species has red eyes and so should only be confused with the Red-eyed Damselfly. It has slightly shorter wings, a slightly more fluttering flight and brighter red eyes but the key feature to look for is the stepped blue pattern on the tip of the abdomen. The sides of abdominal segment 8 are blue in this species but black in Red-eyed Damselfly. This species also has a characteristic black ‘X’ on the tip of the blue abdomen. The female has complete antehumeral stripes over the thorax whereas in Red-eyed Damselfly these are short and therefore incomplete. The eyes of the female tend to be green rather than brownish-red as in the Red-eyed Damselfly. For other potential confusion damselfly species see under Azure Damselfly (including photographic comparisons).

This species that is relatively new to Sussex may present an initial challenge to distinguish it from the well-established Red-eyed Damselfly. However the differences between them are very obvious once one has got one’s eye in - and a telescope out! Apart from being much smaller, and having a fluttering flight, the diagnostic difference is that segment 8 of the male’s abdomen (i.e. above the blue ‘tail’) has two distinct blue marks at the sides, narrowing the black area. The eyes of the female are green, rather than brownish red as in the Red-eyed. Although still with a very limited range, it may be gaining a foothold and dispersing to other parts of the county.

Erythromma viridulum
1 / 6
Male
Photo: Simon Linington
Erythromma viridulum
2 / 6
Male
Photo: David Sadler
Erythromma viridulum
3 / 6
Male
Photo: Simon Linington
Erythromma viridulum
4 / 6
Female
Photo: David Sadler
Erythromma viridulum
5 / 6
Pair in tandem
Photo: Simon Linington
Erythromma viridulum
6 / 6
Ovipositing pair
Photo: David Sadler

National status
One of our newest species, it has changed in status from migrant to resident with the first breeding record as recently as 1999, in Essex (Dewick and Gerussi 2000).

Status in Sussex
The first (but still unconfirmed) sighting was at Pett Levels in 2000; the first confirmed one was by F. Lemoine on 10 August 2002 at Icklesham, with subsequent numbers building up to a maximum of 125 on 19 August (Hunter 2003), and with many pairs copulating and ovipositing. In 2003 additional colonies were discovered in the Cuckmere Valley by J. Luck (some 20 pairs). Since then it has spread to the Arun and Adur valleys, the High Weald and a few scattered sites in the west. It has also consolidated its position in the east of Sussex.

Distribution at 1km scale

Erythromma viridulum distribution (all)
Erythromma viridulum distribution bre 1980
Erythromma viridulum distribution 1980 - 1989
Erythromma viridulum distribution 1990 - 1999
Erythromma viridulum distribution 2000 - 2009
Erythromma viridulum distribution 2010 - 2019
Erythromma viridulum distribution 2020 on

Historical records
The first British record followed a dramatic expansion of its range in Europe in the previous 30 years.

Flight times
Mid to late June - early September.

Phenology (adult)

Erythromma viridulum phenology (all)
Erythromma viridulum phenology pre 1980
Erythromma viridulum phenology 1980 - 1989
Erythromma viridulum phenology 1990 - 1999
Erythromma viridulum phenology 2000 - 2009
Erythromma viridulum phenology 2010 - 2019
Erythromma viridulum phenology 2020 on
Erythromma viridulum habitat
1 / 1
Small Red eyed Damselfly habitat at Sheffield Park
Photo: Simon Linington

Habitat
Mainly lakes and ponds with floating vegetation, but the males tend to stay even further away from the banks than the Red-eyed Damselfly. This is true in France where this species is very common but very rarely seen near banks (D. Chelmick, pers. comm.). There is also a preference for submerged vegetation where it breaks the water’s surface.

Conservation
As a species rapidly expanding its range, the Small Red-eyed Damselfly may not yet demand any particular conservation efforts. For now, it is worth monitoring its current sites to note any habitat preferences, and to survey other sites being colonised.

Similar species
The male of this species has red eyes and so should only be confused with the Red-eyed Damselfly. It has slightly shorter wings, a slightly more fluttering flight and brighter red eyes but the key feature to look for is the stepped blue pattern on the tip of the abdomen. The sides of abdominal segment 8 are blue in this species but black in Red-eyed Damselfly. This species also has a characteristic black ‘X’ on the tip of the blue abdomen. The female has complete antehumeral stripes over the thorax whereas in Red-eyed Damselfly these are short and therefore incomplete. The eyes of the female tend to be green rather than brownish-red as in the Red-eyed Damselfly. For other potential confusion damselfly species see under Azure Damselfly (including photographic comparisons).