Siberian winter damselfly (Sympecma paedisca)

Siberian winter damselfly, side profile
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Siberian winter damselfly fact file

Siberian winter damselfly description

GenusSympecma (1)

The Siberian winter damselfly (Sympecma paedisca) is a medium-sized damselfly with rather drab cream and brown markings (3). It is similar in appearance to the common winter damselfly (Sympecma fusca), but can be distinguished by a slight bulge on its dark dorsal stripe (3). Newly emerged adult Siberian winter damselflies tend to be cream with metallic green spots (2).

Although there is little information on the specific appearance of the Siberian winter damselfly larva, damselfly larvae in general are slender with three long, tail-like appendages at the end of the abdomen, which are actually external gills (4).


Siberian winter damselfly biology

Like other damselfly species, the Siberian winter damselfly has a complex lifecycle which includes a fully aquatic larval stage (4). As larvae or ‘nymphs’, damselflies are effective predators with the fascinating feature of being able to fire out the lower portion of the mouth, known as the ‘mask’, in order to grasp passing prey (4) (6). The larval Siberian winter damselfly feeds on a range of small invertebrates, including mosquito larvae and water fleas (Daphnia sp.) (2).


Siberian winter damselfly range

The Siberian winter damselfly occurs in Europe and Asia, ranging from the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, east through Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic, and into Turkey and Iran. It ranges as far east as China and Japan, and the northern limit of its distribution includes Estonia (5).


Siberian winter damselfly habitat

The habitat of the Siberian winter damselfly includes both freshwater and brackish water (5). It occurs in water meadows around rivers, the vegetated zones of lakes, and in pools and ponds (2) (5). The adult Siberian winter damselfly prefers open vegetation and requires clear, moderately nutrient-rich water in which to breed (2) (5).

Winter hibernation takes place in bushes and the lower grasses and herbs of open oak and spruce forests (5).


Siberian winter damselfly status

The Siberian winter damselfly has not yet been globally assessed, but is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Mediterranean Red List (1).


Siberian winter damselfly threats

The Siberian winter damselfly is currently believed to be in decline (8), with a serious reduction in both its numbers and distribution reported in the Netherlands (9). It is also classified as Endangered (EN) in the Mediterranean region, and is believed to be at risk from future drying out of its breeding habitat as a result of climate change (10).

Due to the unique hibernation behaviour of members of the genus Sympecma, the Siberian winter damselfly is also vulnerable to natural threats during the winter. Low temperatures, predation by rodents and disturbance by cattle and humans may all contribute to an increased risk of mortality during the winter hibernation period (9)

Overall, approximately 15 percent of dragonfly and damselfly species in Europe are currently considered to be threatened with extinction. General threats facing many species include the destruction of their freshwater habitat due to the unsustainable extraction of water, the construction of dams and reservoirs and pollution (8).


Siberian winter damselfly conservation

The Siberian winter damselfly is listed on Annexe IV of the EU Habitats Directive, meaning this species and its habitat are in need of strict protection (11). Specific conservation measures for the Siberian winter damselfly’s habitat include phased mowing of the marsh vegetation to provide sufficient vegetation for this species' reproduction and hibernation (2).

It is recommended that as well as protecting this species’ breeding grounds, its wintering habitat should also be protected to conserve this species during its vulnerable hibernation period (9). The breeding population of the Siberian winter damselfly in the Netherlands currently occurs in a large nature reserve, although adults may disperse and hibernate outside of this area (9).

The Siberian winter damselfly may also benefit from general plans to conserve dragonfly and damselfly species across Europe, with plans including better management of freshwater habitats and also developing a network of volunteers and experts to monitor changes in damselfly populations (8).


Find out more

Find out more about the Siberian winter damselfly and other threatened dragonfly species:

Find out more about species in the Mediterranean Basin:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



In arthropods (crustaceans, insects and arachnids) the abdomen is the hind region of the body, which is usually segmented to a degree (but not visibly in most spiders). In crustacea (such as crabs), some of the limbs attach to the abdomen; in insects the limbs are attached to the thorax (the part of the body nearest to the head) and not the abdomen.
Slightly salty water, usually a mixture of salt and freshwater, such as that found in estuaries.
Relating to the back or top side of an animal.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
A winter survival strategy in which an animal’s metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained. While hibernating, animals survive on stored reserves of fat that they have accumulated in summer.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Immature stage in an animal’s lifecycle, after it hatches from an egg and before it changes into the adult form. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but are usually unable to reproduce.
In insects, a stage of growth whereby the hard outer layer of the body (the exoskeleton) is shed and the body becomes larger.
Stage of insect development, similar in appearance to the adult but sexually immature and without wings. The adult form is reached via a series of moults, and the wings develop externally as the nymph grows.


  1. IUCN Mediterranean Red List (December, 2011)
  2. Stichting Toegepast Onderzoek Waterbeheer - Noordse winterjuffer (December, 2011)
  3. DragonflyPix - Siberian winter damsel (December, 2011)
  4. Gibbons, B. (1986) Dragonflies and Damselflies of Britain and Northern Europe. Hamlyn Limited, London.
  5. van Helsdingen, P.J., Willemse, L. and Speight, M.C.D. (Eds.) (1996) Background Information on Invertebrates of the Habitats Directive and the Bern Convention: Part II - Mantodea, Odonata, Orthoptera and Arachnida. Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg.
  6. O’Toole, C. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Insects and their Allies. Oxford University Press, Oxford
  7. den Ouden, A. and van Roosmalen, J.A.M. (2011) Favorite hibernating spots of Sympecma fusca. Brachytron, 14:(1) 28-39.
  8. Kalkman, V.J. et al. (2010) European Red List of Dragonflies. Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, Available at:
  9. Manger, R. and Dingemanse, N.J. (2009) Adult survival of Sympecma paedisca (Brauer) during hibernation (Zygoptera: Lestidae). Odonatologica, 38(1): 55-59. Available at:
  10. Riservato, E. et al. (2009) The Status and Distribution of Dragonflies of the Mediterranean Basin. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Malaga. Available at:
  11. EU Habitats Directive (December, 2011)

Image credit

Siberian winter damselfly, side profile  
Siberian winter damselfly, side profile

© Steve McInnes

Steve McInnes


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