KelsaeJohn's picture

One for the invertebrates experts

Observed: 10th August 2012 By: KelsaeJohnKelsaeJohn’s reputation in InvertebratesKelsaeJohn’s reputation in InvertebratesKelsaeJohn’s reputation in Invertebrates

This insect flew past me as I sat on the riverbank. At first, I thought it was a small damselfly. It was following the the line of the bank. It landed on some vegetation about twenty yards further up so I ran up for a closer look. Unfortunately, it flew off again before I had much time to study the details and before I could reset my camera.
It was a very beautiful creature and I hope someone will know what it was.
PS sorry about the terrible sketch. It was an afterthought when I realised my post wasn't showing on the carousel.
PPS What's happened to my description? I wrote one in the ID notes box (actually I've done it twice!) but it didn't show up in the post so I'll write it again here.
Size: approx. that of a small copper or common blue butterfly
Body: slim & black - maybe 20mm or so in length.
Wings: fore-wings black; hind-wings deep iridescent blue. The fore and hind wings were deeply separated.

Species interactions

No interactions present.


KelsaeJohn's picture

Unidentified insect

Hi Gary,
no, definitely not a damselfly. I should have made that clear in my description. The wings were held open (butterfly fashion) not back against the body - and the were more butterfly/moth-shaped than dragon/damselfly. Also, I'm fairly certain the body was much too short for damsel/dragon

allrounder's picture

Hi John

It was worth a stab! Hope someone else can id it for you. Gary

Please see my Flickr photo's

Dluogs's picture

Re: definitely not a damselfy

Have you seen many demoiselles before? They are nothing like the smaller damselflies and very butterfly like in flight. They sometimes hold their wings open, but when sitting with them close, often flash them open like a buttefly. Also, the colours are incredible. The dark patches on the wings can look black or shimmering navy blues all the way through to turquise and aqua. I'm uploading a selection of photos I took this weekend to show you a little of what I mean - . The first shows them in flight - if the light were different they could look bright blue. The next three are of the same individual taken seconds apart on the same leaf, showing some of the colour variation possible. Hope this helps, because when I saw your sketch, I was convinced it was a demoiselle. They often look like that to me. I can't rule out Calopteryx virgo either - especially if the wings were completely dark. Eg.

Amadan's picture

Just a thought

Is it a trout stream? I wondered if it might have been a fisherman's fly - but I guess you'd have seen the line it was on, too. The colour is a puzzle if it really wasn't a damselfly or one of the "blues". Perhaps one of the very bright beetles?

KelsaeJohn's picture

Is it a trout stream?

Well no,not exactly. It is the river tweed -one of the finest salmon fishing rivers in the country and, yes it does have trout as well. But, to address your question more directly, it was definitely NOT a fly on the end of a line. And it definitely wasn't a damselfly. As I said, it flew right past me -just in front of my face, in a direct (unswerving) line, unlike a butterfly. I watched it land on a plant beside the water and I saw it close-up (for maybe 20-30 seconds) before it took off again and flew over the water. So, where does that leave us? I have been giving it a lot of thought (and a little research) and I must admit I am stumped!
I've had a look at a book which lists and illustrates all of the families in the class Insecta and the only possibilities are 1) Ephemeroptera 2) Hemiptera or 3) Lepidoptera. From that I can rule out (British) butterflies. Nevertheless, I have to say, apart from the slim body, it looked more like a butterfly (in terms of wing shape/structure) than anything else I can think of. What then the possibility of some exotic (escaped from a butterfly farm or suchlike, or released by some enthusiast who raised them from pupae? I'm getting desperate, I know but ...
I know what I saw! It WAS beautiful; It did look exotic (the iridescent blue hind-wings - reminiscent of a kingfisher blue but deeper in colour and everything else black (or, at least, very dark.

Amadan's picture

I thought it was unlikely -

but worth a mention, as this is rather intriguing.
Have you seen this more recent post -
Was the colour anything like it?

KelsaeJohn's picture

Mystery creature

Had a look at that post. No, nothing like it. Wings are the wrong shape and the blue colour on my obs. was richer/deeper. And that picture has reminded me that I don't remember seeing any veining on the wing - they looked almost transparent (the blue hind-wings, that is.) This is very frustrating!

Amadan's picture

There is a blue-coloured -

species of Burnet Moth, but it isn't a UK resident. As you say, frustrating!
An unsympathetic health-service friend of mine used to have a saying for such occasions "time to increase your medication, I think".
I suspect this won't be resolved, but I'd like to think it might.

KelsaeJohn's picture

Thanks, everybody, for your help/suggestions

I have followed up the suggestions and I don't think I am any closer to an answer, although, I should say that of all the possibilities, Calopteryx virgo is the one that comes closest to the image I have in my mind of what I saw. That, though, just confuses the matter further, because, as far as I know, the species has never been recorded in this part of the country. I think I must resign myself to never knowing!