Libellula quadrimaculata

Common Name:
Four-spotted Chaser, Four-spotted Skimmer
L. quadrimaculata
The Name
Libellula quadrimaculata (Linnaeus, 1758), the Four-spotted Chaser, known in North America as the Four-spotted Skimmer, is a dragonfly of the family Libellulidae found frequently throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. The four wing spots give this species its name; the wings also have a large brown patch at base. Both sexes are similar with brown bodies tapering to a black tip. There is a variant form, praenubila Newman, which has exaggerated wing spots. This is believed to be related to water temperatures during larval development, and appears to be more common in Europe than in the Americas.

This species may be confused with females and immature males of the Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa and the Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum, however in the latter two species there is no dark spot on the middle of the leading edge of the wings.


The Characteristics
The four-spotted chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) is a medium size dragonfly with length around 39-48mm. It gets its name form the four dark spots present at the midpoint of the front of each of its four wings. Unusually for this family, males and females are much alike in appearance; the basic colouration is dark honey-brown, with a paler scalloped edge to both sides of the abdomen. The tip of the abdomen is black. 

This rather uniformly brown dragonfly is quite active in late spring and summer. The sexes are alike with a brown abdomen becoming darker towards the rear, a brown thorax and brown eyes. The is a row of yellow spots along each side of the abdomen. The most noticeable feature is the colouring of the wings. The nodus (half-way along the leading edge of each wing) has a very dark spot, which gives the insect its name. The wing bases are also very dark and a colour form praenubila has a general darkening of the wing tips.

The male is considered to be highly aggressive and will defend a given territory from incursions from other males of the species. The male is known to form preferences for prominent perches and will often return to the same perches around the margins of pools and ponds whilst it patrols for intruders. Both sexes are prolific fliers and mating takes place in the air, rather than on perches or amongst the vegetation. The female lays her eggs on floating vegetation. They tend to be easier to approach than Broad-bodied Chasers.

This active Dragonfly mainly lives by ponds, vernal pools, and slow flowing rivers; their flight period is April to early September, but is most common in June and July.


The Reproduction and Development
Sexually active males are highly territorial and select a prominent perch over-looking the water to look for females, other males and prey, defending the airspace around waterside perch from which they feed, chasing rival males or attempt to mate with passing females. Mating is brief in mid-air. Females perch away from water to avoid harrassment by the males, only venturing to the water when they are ready to deposit eggs. This is a wandering species and may migrate long distances. 

females oviposit alone with male in attendance, releasing eggs by dipping abdomen on water surface over patches of aquatic plants. Eggs hatch after c1 month. Larvae live amongst plant debris and take 2 years to develop. Emergence occurs in early morning on emergent and marginal vegetation. 

It prefers small oligotrophic and mesotrophic pools and lakes, often with little open water, but also large lakes and brackish sites. Adults feed predominantly on mosquitoes, gnats and midges; the larvae feed primarily on other aquatic insect larvae and on tadpoles.


The Distribution
Common and widespread. 


The Protection Status
Libellula quadrimaculata is very widespread and common over much of its range, with no threats across its range and is assessed in IUCN Red List as Least Concern. 



The Species on Stamps



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