White-legged Damselfly - Platycnemis pennipes

Adult size

Overall length: 35 - 37mm   Hindwing length: 19 - 23mm

Distinguishing features

A very pale damselfly, the male is light blue with white legs. The only species other than demoiselles where males engage in a courtship display. Found along clean unpolluted rivers.

Identification - for help with terms see glossary

Mature Male

The distinguishing feature of this species are the broad feathery white legs which males use in display. Mature males have a pale sky blue abdomen with paired black stripes until segments 7 – 10 which become broad black bands. Eyes also distinctively bright blue. Thorax has broad pale blue antehumeral stripes.

Immature males

Resemble immature females being cream/orange with spots where stripes will develop. Eyes are brown.

Mature females

Abdomen is a pale yellow-green with similar black marking on abdomen as mature males. Have paler white legs than male. Eyes are pale green/blue. Antehumeral stripes yellow/green.

Immature females

Abdomen is a very pale creamy white known as the lactea phase with pale spots. Eyes are brown.

Habitat

Preferred breeding habitat is well vegetated slow moving rivers and canals usually in unshaded sections. Can be rarely found in lakes and ponds. Shares similar habitat preference to the Banded Demoiselle and often found in association with that species.

Behaviour

Has delicate flight and can easily be found in large numbers in bankside vegetation where males with search for females. The pale immature phases are very well camouflaged. 

Status and distribution

Has a southern distribution and occurs only as far as the midlands in England and to mid Wales. Locally abundant in preferred habitat. Very common on rivers such as Stour and Allen in Dorset.



Flight period

Main flight period is mid May to Late August, peaking in June and July.

Similar species

Very distinctive in every phase and only species with white legs, however, immature forms of the Common Blue Damselfly and Azure Damselflly can have pale bodies and legs which may need to be examined closely.

More photographs

Click on the photos below to enlarge...

All photographs by kind permission & © of Ken Dolbear unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.