Sussex Dragonfly Group

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Common Ischnura)
Ischnura elegans (Vander Linden, 1820)
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Suborder: Zygoptera
Family: Coenagrionidae

Blue-tailed Damselfly
(Common Ischnura)
Ischnura elegans

Suborder: Zygoptera
Family: Coenagrionidae

This is one of our most common and widespread species, found in a variety of habitats, including brackish water, and tolerant of mild pollution. Males are a dark blue-black, with a distinctive blue ‘tail’. The females have a number of forms, including one like the male.

Ischnura elegans
1 / 11
f. infuscans - ovipositing
Photo: Unknown
Ischnura elegans
2 / 11
f. rufescens
Photo: David Sadler
Ischnura elegans
3 / 11
f. rufescens-obsoleta
Photo: David Sadler
Ischnura elegans
4 / 11
f. violacea
Photo: David Sadler
Ischnura elegans
5 / 11
female f. rufescens
Photo: Simon Linington
Ischnura elegans
6 / 11

Photo: Unknown
Ischnura elegans
7 / 11
female
Photo: David Sadler
Ischnura elegans
8 / 11
female
Photo: David Sadler
Ischnura elegans
9 / 11
male
Photo: Simon Linington
Ischnura elegans
10 / 11
male
Photo: Simon Linington
Ischnura elegans
11 / 11
male
Photo: Simon Linington

More images

National status
Abundant throughout Britain.

Status in Sussex
Common, the number of records (3692) exceeded only by that of the Azure Damselfly. Very well distributed across the whole county, with marked concentrations in the east, and occurring even on the Downs where there is water

Distribution at 1km scale

Ischnura elegans distribution (all)
Ischnura elegans distribution pre 1980
Ischnura elegans distribution 1980 - 1989
Ischnura elegans distribution 1990 - 1999
Ischnura elegans distribution 2000 - 2009
Ischnura elegans distribution 2010 - 2019
Ischnura elegans distribution 2010 on

Historical records
A widespread species historically (e.g. Dannreuther 1939, 1945). Chelmick (1979) noted its reduced abundance in acid waters such as those on Ashdown Forest

Flight times
Late April - early September. There is some evidence of first flight times becoming earlier.

Phenology (adult)

Ischnura elegans phenology (all)
Ischnura elegans phenology pre 1980
Ischnura elegans phenology 1980 - 1989
Ischnura elegans phenology 1990 - 1999
Ischnura elegans phenology 2000 - 2009
Ischnura elegans phenology 2010 - 2019
Ischnura elegans phenology 2010 on
Ischnura elegans habitat
1 / 1
Blue tailed Damselfly habitat at Pevensey Levels
Photo: Fran Southgate

Habitat
A range of still or slow-moving waters, including garden ponds, streams, rivers, canals, ditches and pools. The species tolerates pollution more than other species.

Conservation
This species, most common in the south of the country, raises no conservation concerns. As an early coloniser of newly created wetland habitat, it is an easy species to encourage - and, in doing so, we can perhaps help other dragonflies to extend their range too.

Similar species
Males are only likely to be confused with the Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly which is very rare in Sussex. These two species can be told apart by the location of the blue band near the tip of the abdomen. In Blue-tailed Damselfly it is on abdominal segment 8 with segment 9 (nearer the tip) black. In the Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly, the blue is primarily on segment 9. The pterostigma are also longer on Blue-tailed Damselfly. The females of both species occur in different forms (some of which are transitional). Some of these might cause confusion with females of other damselfly species. There is a discussion of this under Azure Damselfly.

This is one of our most common and widespread species, found in a variety of habitats, including brackish water, and tolerant of mild pollution. Males are a dark blue-black, with a distinctive blue ‘tail’. The females have a number of forms, including one like the male.

Ischnura elegans
1 / 11
f. infuscans - ovipositing
Photo: Unknown
Ischnura elegans
2 / 11
f. rufescens
Photo: David Sadler
Ischnura elegans
3 / 11
f. rufescens-obsoleta
Photo: David Sadler
Ischnura elegans
4 / 11
f. violacea
Photo: David Sadler
Ischnura elegans
5 / 11
female f. rufescens
Photo: Simon Linington
Ischnura elegans
6 / 11

Photo: Unknown
Ischnura elegans
7 / 11
female
Photo: David Sadler
Ischnura elegans
8 / 11
female
Photo: David Sadler
Ischnura elegans
9 / 11
male
Photo: Simon Linington
Ischnura elegans
10 / 11
male
Photo: Simon Linington
Ischnura elegans
11 / 11
male
Photo: Simon Linington

National status
Abundant throughout Britain.

Status in Sussex
Common, the number of records (3692) exceeded only by that of the Azure Damselfly. Very well distributed across the whole county, with marked concentrations in the east, and occurring even on the Downs where there is water

Distribution at 1km scale

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

Historical records
A widespread species historically (e.g. Dannreuther 1939, 1945). Chelmick (1979) noted its reduced abundance in acid waters such as those on Ashdown Forest

Flight times
Late April - early September. There is some evidence of first flight times becoming earlier.

Phenology (adult)

Ischnura elegans phenology (all)
Ischnura elegans phenology pre 1980
Ischnura elegans phenology 1980 - 1989
Ischnura elegans phenology 1990 - 1999
Ischnura elegans phenology 2000 - 2009
Ischnura elegans phenology 2010 - 2019
Ischnura elegans phenology 2020 on
Ischnura elegans habitat
1 / 1
Blue tailed Damselfly habitat at Pevensey Levels
Photo: Fran Southgate

Habitat
A range of still or slow-moving waters, including garden ponds, streams, rivers, canals, ditches and pools. The species tolerates pollution more than other species.

Conservation
This species, most common in the south of the country, raises no conservation concerns. As an early coloniser of newly created wetland habitat, it is an easy species to encourage - and, in doing so, we can perhaps help other dragonflies to extend their range too.

Similar species
Males are only likely to be confused with the Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly which is very rare in Sussex. These two species can be told apart by the location of the blue band near the tip of the abdomen. In Blue-tailed Damselfly it is on abdominal segment 8 with segment 9 (nearer the tip) black. In the Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly, the blue is primarily on segment 9. The pterostigma are also longer on Blue-tailed Damselfly. The females of both species occur in different forms (some of which are transitional). Some of these might cause confusion with females of other damselfly species. There is a discussion of this under Azure Damselfly.