Greek red damsel (Pyrrhosoma elisabethae)

Side view of a male Greek red damsel
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Greek red damsel fact file

Greek red damsel description

GenusPyrrhosoma (1)

This striking species can be recognised by its mostly black head, thorax and legs, deep red eyes and long, vivid-red abdomen. However, while the male possesses distinctive black rings towards the tip of the abdomen, females vary in the proportions of red and black on their bodies, and may show more extensive black colouration than their male counterpart (2) (3). Only structural particularities allow the distinction from its close relative P. nymphula, which is widespread in Europe.

Pyrrhosoma nymphula elisabethae.
Length: 36 - 38 mm (2)
Length of abdomen: 28 - 30 mm (2)
Hindwing: 20 - 24 mm (2)

Greek red damsel biology

The Greek red damsel is an early spring species, having a flight period extending from the last third of April to mid-June. Nothing is precisely known about the biology of this restricted species, but much can be inferred from what is known of its close relative P. nymphula. The larval stage is likely to run over one or two years and to include around 12 stadia. Larvae are expected to generally divide in two cohorts, one with a rapid development, the other with slower growth. They are hidden with the submerged plants and organic detritus at the bottom of small rivers. Larvae defend territories and become known through movements of their caudal appendages. Adult males stay in the close surrounding of their reproducing site and await females in a small territory constituted by a small perch and the close adjacent area, from where they push back other males. Territories change several times within a day, but are regularly reoccupied. Females oviposit in tandem with the male and lay their eggs in aquatic plant tissues, by making a small slit with their ovipositor. Sometimes, both male and female are completely submerged.


Greek red damsel range

Known from just seven localities occupying less than 20 km²: three on the northern part of the Peloponnisos, Greece, three from Kérkira, Corfu (Greece), and one from southern Albania (1).


Greek red damsel habitat

Very little is known about the habitat preferences of this damselfly. Those found in the mountains of the Peloponnisos were at small brooks with clear, cool water and rich vegetation, while those in the coastal plains of Kérkira were observed in a ditch and in a slow flowing river (1).


Greek red damsel status

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered


Greek red damsel threats

The few, small populations of this rare endemic damselfly are thought to be declining, and further declines are anticipated due to the severe pressure placed on its habitat. The brooks in Greece, on which much of the remaining population appears to rely, are particularly threatened (1).


Greek red damsel conservation

There are currently no conservation initiatives targeting this species. It has been suggested that there is a need for surveys on the Peloponnisos and Corfu to establish the extent of the species’ range. If no populations are found to lie in protected areas, obtaining legal protection for at least some of the population would become a priority. It has been recommended that a conservation action plan for the brook habitats of the Peloponnisos is developed, which would benefit the rich array of endemic dragonflies in this area (1).



Authenticated (18/12/2006) by Jean-Pierre Boudot, CNRS, Université Henri Poincaré Nancy I, France.



A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Egg-laying organ in female insects consisting of outgrowths of the abdomen (the hind region of the body in insects).


  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2010)
  2. Dijkstra, K.D.B. and Lewington, R. (2006) Field Guide to the Dragonflies of Britain and Europe. British Wildlife Publishing, Gillingham.
  3. University of Paisley: Biological Sciences (August, 2006)

Image credit

Side view of a male Greek red damsel  
Side view of a male Greek red damsel

© Jean-Pierre Boudot

Jean-Pierre Boudot
Université Henri Poincaré Nancy I
Faculté des Sciences
Boulevard des Aiguillettes
BP 239
Vandœuvre-lès-Nancy Cedex


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