Blue Featherleg - Platycnemis pennipes

Scientific Name: Platycnemis pennipes.

English Name: Blue Featherleg or White-legged Damselfly.

French Name: L'Agrion a larges pattes (='wide legged agrion').

5 Key Characters:
  • middle and hind tibias white, wide, flattened and 'feathered', especially in the males.
  • mature specimens have a continuous black line up their legs.
  • mature males are pale blue with black markings, immatures are porecelain white.
  • females are light browny green with black markings, immatures are light pinky brown.
  • they have a double set of 'shoulder' stripes (antehumerals).
Lookalikes: Immature males are often mistaken for the White Featherleg P. latipes, but that is a rare species in this area and does not have a black line up the leg. Immature females can be confused with both P. latipes and the Orange Featherleg P. acutipennis, however this last species is very localised (ie only occurring on certain sites) and it seems that although P. acutipennis and P. pennipes distributions overlap they do not co-exist - sites either have one or the other. This is at least partly connected to different habitat requirements and/or tolerances.

Habitat: Floodplains, especially oxbow lakes, rivers and open stretches of flowing water. They dominate suitable sunny streams but here in the lowlands will also use still water such as neutral or alkaline lakes, fish ponds (étangs), gravel pits and canals. The species never uses acidic waters such as in peat bogs. Both sexes are commonly encountered in grassland quite a distance from any water.

Flight Period: May-June-July-August-September-October.

Status: By far the most common Featherleg, it is ubiquitous, often abundant and one of the last species to disappear from areas of intensive agriculture. It is a temperate climate species, ideally suited to the French central lowlands where it is neither too hot nor too cold.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:

Photographs numbered from left to right and top to bottom. All photos can be enlarged in a new window by clicking on them. 1, 5-6 immature females, 2-4 mature males, in our orchard, May.

A group ovipositing in a calm shallow section of the Creuse river at Fontgombault in the Brenne. The males 'stand guard' over the females, who they have grasped by the scruff of the neck with the claspers at the tip of their abdomen. They look like circus acrobats.

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