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Dragonflies and damselflies

With clean streams, more wet bogs than anywhere else in north-west Europe and many ponds, the New Forest is a particularly important place for dragonflies.

Several species of dragonfly live only on heathlands and the New Forest holds all five of the heathland species occurring in southern UK.

Dragonflies and damselflies lay their eggs in water and the larvae develop in the water for a few years, where they are ferocious predators.

Dragonflies have a number of predators. The most important are fish, which eat the eggs and larvae, and birds, which eat the adults. However the most specialised dragonfly predator is the hobby. This summer-visiting bird of prey relies on catching dragonflies on the wing when it first arrives back in the UK in May.

Here are some details about the males of the rarer species of the New Forest and some of the common species that you are likely to see.

ID tip – Dragonflies are bigger and sturdier than damselflies and they hold their wings out like an aeroplane when landed. Damselflies are not so speedy and have more of a flitty flight. They hold their wings closed along their body or half-open when landed.

Photo credit: Simon Curson

Lead Ranger


'To help ground nesting birds rear their young safely, keep yourself, dogs and ridden horses on the main tracks from the beginning of March to the end of July.'

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