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A beautiful damsel in a lovely spot!

C. virgo meridionalis Sélys
C. virgo meridionalis Sélys

The Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo meridionalis)  is a European damselfy which likes small, fast flowing streams and rivers.  The female has a metallic greenish-bronze body and brown or russet coloured wings.  The male is even more striking with a metallic blueish-green body and blue wings.  The males were much more flighty than the females when I took these photographs, and frustratingly I did not manage to capture a shot of one.  I came across this damsel in Spain near the beautiful Rio Sor, which flows northwards into the sea in the Province of Galicia.

At one particular point, called the Mirador (view-point) Agua Caida – quite a remote spot at the end of a small country road – there is a steep track leading down to the river.

 Rio Sor river from Mirador Agua Caida 1

There were quite a few damsels resting on vegetation such as ferns as I neared the valley bottom.

 Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo meridionalis) female

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo meridionalis) female

This is a beautiful and isolated spot.  I am the only person I have ever seen climb down and back (!) so it feels rather magical and unspoilt when you get to the river at the bottom of the valley, although it is possible to walk in along the river from one direction on an old path (it is a walking path).

The fast flowing Rio Sor below the Mirador Agua Caida
The fast flowing Rio Sor below the Mirador Agua Caida

I must confess that I was not completely sure about this identification at first!  There is another similar species called Copper Demoiselle (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis) and a subspecies called C. h. asturica occurs along the north Atlantic coast of Spain (1). Someone has kindly posted a photograph of both of the females of these two species – on the same leaf! – on Flicker (2) for comparison.  One of the distinguishing features of the Copper Demoiselle, is a dark band which runs through the female’s hind wing tips and which is clearly visible when she folds her wings together (3).   None of my female damsels have any sign of this band, although it is not present in immature females.  Finally, I confirmed the identification when I came across an excellent paper by Outomuro et al. (2010) (1).  This paper has an excellent illustration of the wings of the three different  Calopteryx species in the area, as well as a distributional map, which showed that it had to be C. virgo meridionalis which they describe as occurring in cold, fast-flowing streams and rivers, with
abundant waterside vegetation, such as this site.

Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo meridionalis) female
Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo meridionalis) female
Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo meridionalis) female
Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo meridionalis) female

1)  Outomuro D, Torralba-Burrial A, Ocharan FJ. 2010. Distribution of the Iberian Calopteryx damselflies and its relation with bioclimatic belts: Evolutionary and biogeographic implications. Journal of Insect Science10:61, available online:

2)  Pablo Fernández


rcannon992 View All

I am a retired entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.

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