Wicken Fen is one of the best places to see dragonflies in the United Kingdom with 24 species such as the Emperor dragonfly and Red Eyed damselfly breeding on the Fen. On a warm summer's day these beautiful highly coloured insects can be seen performing their aerobatic flying displays along the waterways and ditches.
Today's dragonfly species are closely related to the huge insects that flew over our forests 300 million years ago. They come from a major group of insects known as Odonata, this includes both dragon and damselflies.
Dragon or damselfly
One of the easiest ways to tell the two species apart is to wait for them to land. If they fold their wings closed along their abdomens they are damselfies. If they leave their wings flat open they are dragonflies. Most of the dragonflies' life cycle is spent underwater first as an egg and then a larva. The larval stage can last two years or more, whilst flying adults mostly only survive for a couple of weeks.
Dragonflies in decline
Changes that have taken place in the countryside in recent years has had a devastating effect on the dragonfly population. The loss of wetland habitat due to development and intensive agriculture, together with run-off and wind drift from insecticides and berbicides is having a devasting effect on dragonfly numbers.
The Dragonfly Centre is run by volunteers from the British Dragonfly Society and is normally open most weekends from late May until the end of September, 10am - 4pm. The Centre has colourful displays, and two dipping ponds, with knowledgeable experts on hand to answer your questions and advise on the latest sightings. They also run dragonfly courses, details of which can be found on their website