In recognition of Dragonfly week, here is the most common and widespread dragonfly, the Common Darter. This dragonfly is successful because, like much of our more successful wildlife and plants. it is adaptable. It will breed in lakes, ponds of many sizes, ditches, canals and slow rivers, preferring still water. It will also feed and roam well away from water so you are quite likely to see it even if you don’t live right next to a water body. These are the dragonflies you are likely to see soaking up the sunshine while resting on paths, posts, leaves and fences. The males have a reddish-orange body and the females and young are more yellow-light brown in colour. There is a rarer red Dragonfly- the Ruddy Dragonfly- but this has a narrow ‘waist’ along its abdomen and completely black legs while the Common Darter has yellow stripes on is legs. Conditions: A warm, sunny dry day Temperature: Max 19 Min 9C.
Common Darter Dragonfly- as its name indicates, this is the most common Dragonfly in the UK and can be found around almost any sort of body of water, even stagnant pools. Darter’s are a group of Dragonflies which do just that- they hover and then dart forwards to catch their prey mid-flight, before returning to a favourite perch to consume it. If you notice these Dragonflies, look out for their perches, often atop a plant or fence-post, but they can even be on wooden board-walks, heating up in the sun. Darters aren’t as restless flyers as Hawkers. The Common Darter female and juveniles are yellowish-brown bodied but the males are red-bodied. They can be distinguished from the less common Ruddy Darter by the former being smaller and having black legs. The only other thing you might confuse them with in flight is the Large Red Damselfly which has a longer, narrower body and, like all Damselflies, rests with its wings folded, while the Darter typically rests with its wings held forward.
Conditions: Too hot and sunny for words! Temperature: Max 27 Min 13C.
Dragonfly eyes, (here’s a Common Darter at Potteric Carr this week) have recently been shown to contain 11-30 different colour sensitive proteins, (opsins) compared to our 3. They can see ultraviolet light, polarised light and far more intense colour-ranges than we can. With up to 30,000 facets Dragonflies have the largest compact eyes of the insect world and, with eyes wrapped round their heads, can see in all directions at the same time. No wonder their flying displays are so breathtaking. Common Darters may visit your garden pond or garden to hunt- if so, be amazed! Conditions: Wonderful sunny day day south- just right for Catsfield Flower Show. Temperature: Max 21- Min 16C