In the South of Laos rises the Bolaven Plateau − a lush, fertile region with an elevation of between 1,000 to 1,350 metres above sea level − known for its coffee and its spectacular waterfalls. Teeming with animal and plant life, the plateau offers much to be marvelled at. In 2012, I made several trips to this fascinating place; among the many insect species I came across was Heliocypha perforata (Percheron, 1835), also known as the Common Blue Jewel.
By virtue of its vivid colours, this damselfly is hard to miss. I observed several individuals at three different locations on the Bolaven Plateau, all of which were found along clear, running streams and waterfalls. All the photographs were taken with a Canon EOS 60D. The long working distance afforded by the Sigma 180mm f/3.5 EX DG Macro HSM lens was put to good use, although I found it better to supplement it with a 12mm extension tube to give me more reach. The rocky, fast-flowing streams and the fact that these damselflies were very skittish made taking noteworthy photographs quite a challenge, but the results were well worth the hours I spent chasing them.
Heliocypha perforata is distributed in China, Southeast Asia, and parts of India. Three subspecies have been identified: H. p. perforata, H. p. limbata, and H. p. beautifica, of which the former two have been documented in Laos. I have been unable to find a taxonomic key to help me identify the subspecies, but I hope to get some help with this. At the moment, I am more inclined to believe that the damselflies in these photographs are all H. p. limbata, but I might be mistaken.
Since I have only seen this species near clear and relatively undisturbed streams, it would be interesting to know if it might have any value as a bioindicator of water quality in said streams. There has not been much research done on the Lao Odonata; the first significant study on aquatic insects in Laos was done very recently, in 2012. In my opinion, if there is to be any form of effective environmental conservation in Laos, it would need to begin with biodiversity studies in the existing forests.
- Day, L., Farrell, D., Guenther, A., Hamalainen, M., Klimsa, E., Korshunov, A., Kosterin, O., Makbun, N., Pelegrin, A., Röder, U. and others, (2012). New provincial records of Odonata from Thailand mostly based on photographs. Agrion, 16(1), pp.16–25.
- Hämäläinen, M. (2004). Caloptera damselflies from Fujian (China), with description of a new species and taxonomic notes (Zygoptera: Calopterygoidea). Odonatologica, [online] 33(4), pp.371–398. Available at: http://www.caloptera.com/pdf/Hamalainen%202004%20Caloptera%20damselflies%20from%20Fujian.pdf [Accessed 30 Jul. 2014].
- Iucnredlist.org, (2014). Rhinocypha perforata (Common Blue Jewel). [online] Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/164789/0 [Accessed 29 Jul. 2014].
- Jung, S., Prayaysombath, B., Nammanivong, M., Somvongsa, C. and Bae, Y. (2012). Aquatic Insect Fauna of Vang Vieng Area in Northern Laos. Entomological Research Bulletin, [online] 28, pp.35-42. Available at: http://east-eco.com/sites/default/files/ENRB_2012(28)_0.pdf [Accessed 29 Jul. 2014].
- Kosterin, O. (2010). A glance at the Odonata of the Cambodian coastal mountainous regions: end of dry season in 2010. International Dragonfly Fund–Report, 29, pp.1–75.
- Steinmann, H. (1997). World catalogue of Odonata. 1st ed. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
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2 thoughts on “Heliocypha perforata: the Common Blue Jewel”
They are beautiful! Damselflies are so hard to shoot lol! I tried with my Nikon D3100(18-55 mm though) and it was impossible lol! I believe they might be the indicators, many of colorful animals are! 😉
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Nice pictures, I see them a lot here in Thailand but I haven’t managed to get any shots that are as nice as yours.