This species is well known to UK odonata fans as the first species to emerge, usually with the first sightings in April, but in exceptionally mild springs they can emerge in March, as some did in 2012. You can recognise them by their largely red colouration. Only the small red damselfly shares with them this smaller species is restricted to local populations in a few areas in south England and Wales. Unlike this smaller species the large red is widespread and found around many types of still water, including bog pools and brackish water ditches, and slower flowing waters (Smallshire and Swash, 2004).
Having seen quite a few of these larvae over the years, one thing I’ve noticed is they are much more stocky or robust than other species likely to turn up in a typical pond. Only the small red damselfly and looking in Cham (2009), the southern damselfly, also have this stockier shape, and both these species are very localised and latter very rare.
One of the coolest thing about the larvae is the way they behave towards one another. They are, unusually for nymphs, territorial and will wave they caudal lamellae (the 3 ‘tails’ at the end of the abdomen) (Smallshire and Swash, 2004), presumably this is why they have the patterns on them.
More on Dragonflies here: British dragonfly society
D. Smallshire and A. Swash, 2004, Britain’s Dragonflies, Wild Guides Ltd.
S. Cham, 2009, Field Guide to the larvae and exuviae of British Dragonflies Dragonflies Volume 2: Damselflies (Zygoptera), The British Dragonfly Society