Dragonfly Guide


Leach, 1815

Lestes, or Spreadwings or Emerald Damselflies, is a genus of damselflies in the family Lestidae. The family hold their wings at about 45 degrees to the body when resting. This distinguishes them from most other species of damselflies which hold the wings along, and parallel to, the body when at rest.


Lestes damselflies are mostly metallic green and have partly pruinose bodies, large pterostigma and perch with wings spread, hence the name Spreadwings. Teneral individuals may perch with wings folded, and damselflies of other families may occasionally spread their wings, especially when agitated.

The venation has many pentagonal rathern than rectangular cells. The pterostigma and male appendages recall those of Sympecma. However these have a pale brown body, marked with dark bronze, and they parch with closed wings (sometimes folded along only one side of the abdomen)

Calopteryx also have metallic bodies and Epallage even combines pruinosity, long pterostigma and open wings at rest. Both these have multiple cross-veins between the wing base and the node.

Smaller damselflies, such as Erythromma, Ceriagrion and especially Nehalennia, can sometimes have metallic bodies, but they have large lozenge-shaped pterostigma. Their venation is more squarely mesh-like and they have differently configured markings.

In case of doubt, lestids never has longitudinal veins branch off the vein connecting the arculus and subnode.


Lestes males are very active, often hooking up with females of other species or other males but hybrids are not known from Lestes (only from the closely related Chalcolestes parvidens and Chalcolestes viridis.). The male and female oviposit in tandem, and eggs are typically placed in living plant tissue, often well above or away from water.

Lestes are hardy species, their eggs are cold- and drought-resistant, their larvae are fast-growing and the adults are highly mobile. This allows survival in seasonally dry habitats. These features are most strongly developed in L. barbarus. L. viridis might be the least hardy, instead it has specialised in ovipositing into the bark of living twigs.


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Distribution map. Data from gbif.org


  • Field guide to the dragonflies of Britain and Europe, Klaas-Douwe B Dijkstra.