by Society members
featured in Wharfedale Newspapers
If a prize were being offered for the most beautiful insect ever spotted
in the centre of Leeds, I think I'd stand a good chance of winning it.
My 'prize-winning' observation took place on a warm day in July,
when bright sunshine and high humidity were tempting insects usually restricted
to the banks of the river Aire to venture far from the water - into unfamiliar
I first became aware of the unusual winged visitor as I made my
way towards the rail station through a throng of office workers and bargain
hunters. As it zipped across in front of me I initially thought the insect was
a piece of litter caught in the breeze - perhaps a sweet wrapper cast
carelessly aside by a city centre shopper.
The 'sweet wrapper' then fluttered towards the middle of the road
and it suddenly became animate, as my eyes and brain made sense of the form and
pattern of what was now clearly a
living creature. I realised that I was, rather incongruously, watching a male
banded demoiselle - one of Britain's most stunning damselflies - flit its way
delicately along Neville Street in the direction of the Dark Arches and city
The banded demoiselle is a dramatically-patterned insect that
measures just four and half centimetres from head to tail. It is one of just
two species of British damselfly that have coloured wings, the other being the
aptly-named beautiful damselfly, which is much scarcer in Yorkshire.
The male banded demoiselle is highly distinctive, with an
iridescent blue-green body and those characteristic blue-back patches in its
wings. Although the female lacks the strongly-banded wings, it too has a
metallic body - mainly green with a bronzy tip.
Banded demoiselles fly with delicate flicks of the wings,
creating a pleasing bobbing effect as they make gentle progress around their
territories. During their main flight period from May till August, males are
often seen performing a fluttering, butterfly-like display flight to capture
the attention of females.
Despite its exotic appearance, the banded demoiselle is still
reasonably common throughout England, especially south of the river Humber. In
more rural parts of Yorkshire it is frequently encountered along well-vegetated
river and stream margins, especially at lower elevations where the water flows
more slowly and the channel has a more muddy base.
There is no doubt that the banded demoiselle is one of those
insects that packs an awful lot of interest into a tiny frame.
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