Small Red damselfly - Ceriagrion tenellum

Adult Size

Length: 22 - 27mm   Hindwing Length: 15 – 21mm

Distinguishing features

One of the two red damselflies. Small & delicate compared to Large Red Damselfly. Has all red legs and red wing spots. Females have 3 variable forms.

Identification - for help with terms see glossary

Mature males

Abdomen is all red, thorax is bronze-black with very pale stripes. The legs are all red and the eyes are also red. The wing spots are red.

Immature males

Resemble adults but have a paler colouration on abdomen, thorax, eyes and legs.

Mature females

The female exists in 3 colour forms varying in the amount of red and black on the abdomen. The common form typica has black on its abdomen from segments 4-9, the form melanogastrum is almost entirely black. There is a rarer form, erythrogastrum which resembles the male having an entirely red abdomen.

Immature females

Similar to mature adults but with pale abdomen, eyes, thorax and wing spots.


Preferred breeding habitats are mires, bogs, seeps and acidic ponds and often associated with bog mosses. Often associated with heaths where they can be very common. Often found in similar habitat to Emerald Damselfly.


Has a very weak delicate flight and despite bright colouration can be very well camouflaged as they tend to stay among dense vegetation near water.  Neither males nor females stray far from breeding areas.

Status and distribution

Restricted to southern England and Wales. Locally abundant in preferred habitat. Very common on heathland pools in Dorset but restricted elsewhere.

Flight period

Main flight period is late June to Mid September, peaking in July.

Similar species

The only other red damselfly is Large Red Damselfly, which is larger, has black wing spots,  black legs & thick red or yellow antehumeral stripes on the thorax.

More photographs

Click on the photos below to enlarge...


Mature Male

Mature Female typica form

Mature Female erythrogastrum form 

Immature Male

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