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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.

Description

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

Female

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

Distribution

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

Habitat

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

Male

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.

Lifecycle

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.

Acknowledgements

This page includes pictures kindly contributed by James Wainscoat.

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