Dragonflies first appeared on earth almost four hundred million years ago. Evolving before dinosaurs they are of course still with us today, almost uuchanged except for the fact that all those years ago their wingspans measured nearly two feet!

By contrast, the wingspan of our largest insect, the emperor dragonfly, only spans four inches.

Such large size was possible because the oxygen content of the earth's atmosphere was far greater than today and insects need rich oxygen saturation to grow to any size.

Damselflies are smaller, slimmer and less robust and can claim to be the new kids on the block as they evolved only three hundred million years ago!

Our forefathers called damselflies 'devil's darning needles'. Whilst dragonflies hold their wings at right angles to their bodies, the wings of damselflies are held more or less above their backs. Our first damselfly to emerge is the large red, on the wing from mid-May. Having spent one year under water as a nymph feeding on small invertebrates, early one May morning nymphs climb out of the water up a suitable reed stem. They split their nymphal cases, carefully climb out and dry their wings ready for take off some two hours later.

My favourite insect of all is the magnificent banded demoiselle, a lover of slow moving streams such as Beverley brook and the Wandle. Males are iridescent blue with bold navy blue wing patches (pictured) whereas females are a glorious metallic green which glitters as they fly like mini helicopters above the water.