The technique of mark-release-recapture was used to study survival before and after sexual maturity in adults of the damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula (Sulzer). Fewer females were recaptured upon return to water to breed despite no differences in dispersal or daily survival rate between the sexes over the immature period. Because females took longer to mature than males, their poorer recapture rate was attributed to greater overall mortality during their longer maturation phase. Survivorship curves for tenerals marked at emergence suggested that overall survival of immature adults was similar to, if not better than, that of mature adults. The reasons for this are discussed.

Jolly's model was used to estimate daily survival rates for mature adults. The assumptions of the model were tested rigorously. Estimates for females were statistically less reliable than those for males. Mean reproductive spans for males and females were 6.8 and 6.6 days, respectively, giving mean total adult lifespans of 19.4 days and 21.6 days for individuals surviving the maturation period.

Because neither sex visited the breeding site every day, sampling exclusively at water resulted in underestimation of mean reproductive spans for both sexes. Female reproductive spans were underestimated to a greater extent; because females remain away from water longer between visits, there is a greater chance that they will die before being recaptured.

Mean reproductive spans were also underestimated when only a sub-section of the habitat was sampled. Females were significantly more mobile than males and this increased the likelihood that they would move out of the study area, resulting in more severe underestimation. The importance of obtaining accurate estimates of mature lifespan for females is discussed.