Having photographed a number of dragonfly and damselfly nymphs during the past few winters in my tanks indoors, I have learnt a lot about their otherwise rarely seen lives under the water. One of the many fascinating things I have witnessed is the moulting of their skins. Depending on the species, dragonflies can moult up to 15 times, each time, the slightly bigger nymph emerging from the old skin to continue its life before moulting again when the time is ready. I have often viewed the tanks early morning to see the complete dragonfly or damselfly nymph skin either floating or attached underwater to some weed. This is rarely seen in the wild I doubt. When a nymph has completed a moult, the pigmentation has yet to darken and so the nymph looks very ghost like and white and it also at this stage, pretty vulnerable. They often find a good place to hide and just sit while the skin darkens and hardens which can often take a number of hours. It was one evening when I was viewing photos of Hawker nymphs on the internet that I saw the ghost like photo of a newly moulted Brown Hawker nymph and how stunning it looked. Having seen a number of damselfly nymphs looking like this, I really wanted to be able to witness this for myself and capture some photos of the newly moulted nymph. I set about trying to collect a few Hairy Dragonfly nymphs of a good size and introduced them to one of the tanks where I could study them and hopefully witness this event. As ever, many days passed and I continued to check every morning before work and every evening was spent checking at convenient times until one evening, I went out and put the light on above the tank where I was stunned to see the ghost like shape of a newly moulted Hairy Dragonfly nymph. It must of only just finished moulting as the old skin was right next to it and for a few minutes, I watched in amazement at this often unseen moment of nature. Thankfully this had all taken place quite close to the glass of the tank and within a few minutes, I had the camera on the tripod and was taking a number of photos. It really did stand out like a sore thumb and after a while, headed deeper into cover to gain its deeper colour and harden up. I continued to check on it for a few days and it was probably after the second day, that it ventured out from cover looking completely different and no doubt, eager to catch some prey. Despite further checks, I was lucky to see this event as this must have been the last moult prior to emerging. We know so much about their short lives as adults but hardly ever witness events such as this which happen under the water. It does indeed help pass the winter months away until the season begins but really, the season never ends. It just moves under the water for a while waiting to be discovered.
'Newly Moulted' Hairy Dragonfly Nymph
'Newly Moulted' Hairy Dragonfly Nymph Skin