Emerald Damselfly - Lestes sponsa

Adult size

Overall length: 35 - 39mm   Hindwing length: 27 – 36mm

Distinguishing features

All Emerald species (Lestes) have broadly metallic green bodies, similar to demoiselles but are smaller and without pigmented wings. Distinctively, they often hold their wings at a 45% angle rather than behind their abdomen. 

Identification - for help with terms see glossary

Mature males

A blue pruinescence (waxy pigment) develops on segments 1, 2, 9 & 10 and also on the sides of the thorax. The rest of the abdomen is metallic green. Has blue eyes.

Immature males

Can resemble immature females and only by looking at anal appendages can these be told apart.

Mature females

They have a metallic green/copper abdomen, thorax is copper and eyes are also copper.

Immature females

Tend to be duller green and resemble immature males; can be separated as females have ovipositor.


Preferred breeding habitat is well vegetated small shallow still waters, such as ponds, bogs and ditches. Can tolerate acidic waters and often found on heathland.


Has a weak delicate flight and often can be overlooked as they tend to prefer dense vegetation. Can be remarkably well camouflaged.  Both males and females will tend to prefer similar habitat and probably do not stray far from breeding pools.

Status and distribution

Very common throughout UK.  Locally abundant in preferred habitat. Very common on heathland pools in Dorset.

Flight period

Main flight period is late May to Mid October, peaking in late summer.

Similar species

Other Lestes (Emerald Damselfies) species are similar. See Scarce Emerald Damselfly Lestes dryas (link to BDS site) for distinguishing characters.

More photographs

Click on the photos below to enlarge...


 Mature Male

Mature Female

Immature Male

Mating Pair

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