Lestes sponsa - Emerald Damselfly

Phylum: Arthropoda - Class: Insecta - Order: Odonata - Family: Coenagriidae

Lestes sponsa, Emerald Damselfly


The Emerald Damselfly has a body length of some 38mm and, unlike most other damselflies, holds its wings at 45 degrees to its body when at rest. For this reason they are sometimes referred to as Spreadwings. The males are metallic green with powder-blue eyes and thorax sides; there are powder-blue bands across the first and the final two abdominal segments. Females of this species are very similar but a duller metallic green and with broader bodies with pale beige stripes on the thorax; they lack the blue colouring associated with the males. The pterostigma (wing spots), which are narrow, are dark brown in males but a paler brown in females.

Lestes sponsa, Emerald Damselfly, close-up of head


Emerald Damselflies are fairly common throughout Britain and Ireland, but their distribution tends to be localised and limited by availbility of suitable habitat. This species is found also throughout most of central Europe and parts of Asia.


These are insects of shallow stillwaters, such as acid bog pools, small ponds, ditches and canals, that are surrounded by rushes and other tall bankside vegetation. Being weak fliers, Emerald Damselflies have to on dense vegetation for protection against the wind.

Female Emerald Damselfly, Oxfordshire

The two specimens shown above are females; the male, which has a noticeably thinner abdomen and powder-blue areas, is pictured below.

Lestes sponsa, male

Life cycle

Emerald Dragonflies have a one-year cycle (from egg to egg-laying adult) and spend winter in the egg stage. Adults be seen in flight from late June through to late September.


This page includes pictures kindly contributed by James Wainscoat.

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