Sympetrum striolatum - Common Red Darter dragonfly

Phylum: Arthropoda - Class: Insecta - Order: Odonata - Family: Libellulidae

Common red darter dragonfly (male)

One of the most widespread and abundant of the dragonflies in Britain and Ireland, the Common Red Darter is sometimes referred to as simply the Common Darter.


In Britain and Ireland this is one of our smaller dragoflies, with a typical body length of 40mm. The wing spots (pterostigmata) are variable in colour and can be red, brown or various shades of blue.

Common red darter dragonfly (male), southern England

Unlike the reddish-orange male, pictured above, the female (pictured below) has a body that is yellowish-orange.

Red Darter, female, Wales


When newly emerged, males are also yellowish, but they soon develop distinctive red-orange abdomens.

Red Darter female, England

A key feature that distinguishes this species from other members of the genus Sympetrum is the presence on each of the legs of a cream or yellow stripe against a black background.

Red Darter, closeup of legs, head and thorax


Common throughout Britain and Ireland but less so in the far north, this species is also plentiful across mainland Europe, Asia and North Africa.


This is an dragonfly of shallow lakes, small ponds and other still or very slow flowing water. A mature male from our garden pond in west Wales is shown in the picture below.

Common Darter, male, at rest


Nymphs of this species live in dense weed and are of limited interest to trout and other fish; however, the adults are just so wonderful to watch as they perform their aerobatic displays while hunting smaller insects.


In Britain the adults can be seen on the wing from late June until the end of October and sometimes well in to November. In southern Europe they can sometimes be seen throughout the year. Ovipositing is usually carried out in tandem, although occasionally females will oviposit alone. Eggs are laid on vegetation in the shallow margins. Larvae are ready to emerge and eclode after just one year.

Red Darters in a wheel

There are about forty species of dragonflies and damselflies in the British Isles, although some are now quite rare and hardly ever seen.


This page includes pictures kindly contributed by James Wainscoat.

Excited at the prospect of flyfishing? So are we, and we're pretty sure you would find the Winding River Mystery trilogy of action-packed thrillers gripping reading too. Dead Drift, Dead Cert, and Dead End are Pat O'Reilly's latest river-and-flyfishing based novels, and now they are available in ebook format. Full details on our website here...

Buy each book for just £4.96 on Amazon...

Please Help Us: If you have found this information interesting and useful, please consider helping to keep First Nature online by making a small donation towards the web hosting and internet costs.

Any donations over and above the essential running costs will help support the conservation work of Plantlife, the Rivers Trust and charitable botanic gardens - as do author royalties and publisher proceeds from books by Pat and Sue.

© 1995 - 2024 First Nature: a not-for-profit volunteer-run resource

Please help to keep this free resource online...

Terms of use - Privacy policy - Disable cookies - Links policy