WESTER ROSS, Live the Highlands
Dragonflies of Wester Ross, Scottish Highlands

Dragonflies & Damselflies

You are absolutely correct - we have expert input here. Inexpertly, the only clear thing I understand about insects is that many of them fly and bite!

However, I also know that Wester Ross has many rare insect species that live here - Dragonflies such as Azure & Northern Hawkers, Darter's like the "White faced Darter", and a range of Butterflies that are gradually changing as the climate alters.


We are not so well known for Butterflies, but these things are changing as the climate slowly alters - several species are beginning to move Northwards as the surroundings warm up a little. Who knows what we will have in a few years time? (See "Butterflies & Moths" pages on this site)

 Lesson No 1 :what’s the difference between “Dragonflies” and “Damselflies”?

 DRAGONFLIES: Robust and fast; large eyes meet on top of head; front and back wing pairs are different shapes, spread when at rest.

 DAMSELFLIES: Slender and sedate; small eyes do not meet on top of head; wing pairs are same shape, folded alongside body when at rest (except Emerald Damselfly: spreads 45°).

And Lesson No 2: What do they look like, and where can I see them?

Wester Ross is an excellent place to see dragonflies and damselflies. These insects need their flight muscles to be above 30° C before they can fly. So keep your eyes peeled when the sun shines. Dragonflies (including hawkers, darters and chasers) are the larger, chunkier, faster flying insects. Damselflies, as their name suggests, are delicate and sedate. Both are aerial predators, dragonflies being the most impressive to watch, zooming to 20 miles per hour in seconds! The adults can live for over 2 months but usually for only 2 to 3 weeks. The larvae, that live in ponds, pools, lochans and burns, may spend up to 5 years (though usually 2) growing slowly to maturity. When they leave the water they emerge from their larval skins as dragonflies or damselflies.


                                            Golden-ringed Dragonfly                        

Our largest dragonfly (7.5cm), can be found flying far away from water on hillsides, in forests and even near the tops of mountains. On the wing June to October.

  Common Hawker 

A restless insect, always chasing after something. Males defend territories about 50 m in length. On cool days, late in the year you can easily find females egg laying at the water’s edge. Listen out for their wings clattering against the vegetation. On the wing June to October.


                                                   Four-spotted Chaser 

If there has been a warm spring this is the earliest emerging of the dragonflies, on the wing from early May into August. Dark, hairy body and transparent cuticle allow it to warm up quickly. Flies low over peaty pools. 

And Damselflies? Why, here they are below.........     


                            Common Blue                               Highland Darter        

DAMSELFLIES: Large Red , Blue-tailed , Common Blue and Emerald Damselfly. These four species can be found in just about every pond, pool or lochan in Wester Ross, they fly slowly so are easy to see.Look for males and females linked in the tandem position flying about or laying eggs on water plants. On the wing May to October.


                                                 Large Red Damselflies




Celtic Fringe Tourism Association, C/O Douglas Gibson, 13 Strath, Gairloch, Wester Ross IV21 2BX