Ruddy darter (Sympetrum sanguineum)

French: Le Sympétrum Rouge Sang, Le Sympétrum Sanguin, Sympétrum Sanguin
SizeAverage body length: 34 mm
Wingspan: 55 mm

The ruddy darter is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The ruddy darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) takes its name from its colour and its swift flight behaviour. The male dragonfly has a deep russet colour over the entire body and the abdomen has a pinched section close to where it joins the thorax. Females are slightly smaller, golden yellow in colour and being less obviously marked, are more difficult to identify than the males. There is more than one red coloured darter in the UK and they can be easily confused with each other. The commonest red species, the common darter, can be distinguished as having red veins at the base of the wings and a less ruddy colouration across the body. This is more readily visible when the insect is at rest. However, the ruddy darter has entirely black legs, distinguishing it from all other red darters which have longitudinal yellow stripes on their legs. This feature alone cannot be used to identify the red darter, since immature black darters also have entirely black legs.

The UK range of the ruddy darter has undergone something of an expansion in recent years. Although still relatively uncommon in the west and north of Britain, it is increasing in numbers in the Midlands and Eastern England. Worldwide, the species is found over most of Europe except for northern Scandinavia, as far east as western Siberia and south to North Africa.

Ruddy darters seem to prefer water bodies with tall emergent vegetation, such as reeds and club rush, and are known to breed in ponds, lakes, canals and ditches. They can also be found near coasts and can breed in fairly brackish water.

Ruddy darters appear late in the season, usually towards the end of June and have gone by early September. The mating adults often fly coupled, and perform a dipping flight over the water, the female releasing eggs which the male has fertilised. The larvae spend a year beneath the surface before emerging to hatch into adults.

The ruddy darter is currently not considered to be under any threat.

There are currently no conservation projects specifically aimed at the ruddy darter.

For more on British dragonflies see the British Dragonfly Society

Information supplied by English Nature.

  1.  IUCN Red List (March, 2011)