Damselfly sex

The life of an adult azure damselfly (Coenagrion puella) is actually quite short. The latest study suggests that few live little longer than a week but they spend that week having lots of sex.

The small sheltered pools and ponds along the length of Lambrok Stream and its tributary are perfect breeding territories for azure damselflies. When the female visits a stretch of water, gravid with her first batch of ripe eggs, the resident males fight for the privilege of mating with her and fertilising those eggs.

The embattled males will grab and bite each other’s wings and head, occasionally inflicting fatal wounds and sometimes showing scant regard for the safety of the female they are fighting over. The successful male is not necessarily the largest: research has concluded that males of median size and less than six days old have the most sex and are therefore the most likely to breed successfully.

All images taken in the reserve by Clive Knight

The pair forms a distinctive heart shape with their joined bodies during a copulation that lasts at least thirty minutes. Afterwards, the male remains attached to the female for another ninety minutes or so as she chooses a site to lay her eggs. With her ovipositor, she inserts her fertilised eggs into the stems of submerged aquatic plants while the male guards her from the attentions of other males.

When she has finished laying, the female leaves the pond and goes away to generate a new batch of eggs. Over her short life she will mate several times with different males and lay as many as four thousand eggs.

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