Sympetrum striolatum

Common Name:
Common Darter
S. striolatum
The Name
Sympetrum striolatum (Charpentier, 1840), the Common Darter, is a dragonfly of the family Libellulidae native to Eurasia. It is one of the most common dragonflies in Europe, occurring in a wide variety of water bodies, though with a preference for breeding in still water such as ponds and lakes. In the south of its range adults are on the wing all year round.

This species can be distinguished from similiar species Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum)by its more orange-red color, the straight sided abdomen and yellow stripes on the legs, while for Ruddy Darter, the legs are all black. It could also be confused with rarer migrant red Darters such as the Red-veined Darter (S. fonscolombii) or the Yellow-winged Darter (S. flaveolum). However in the former the wing veins are red and in the latter there are extensive yellow patches at the base of the wings.


The Characteristics
Length around 38-43mm. The thorax in both sexes is brown above with poorly defined antehumeral stripes and yellow panels on the sides. The eyes are brown above and yellow below. The legs are black with a diagnostic yellow stripe along their length. The males become a bright orange-red with maturity with small black spots on S8 and S9. Females have a pale, yellowish-brown abdomen often developing red markings along the segment boundaries and medial line as they age.

Sympetrum species are not easy to tell apart and in most areas more than one Sympetrum species will occur. Females and Teneral individuals have light yellow thorax and abdomen. Males turn red as they mature. Females darken with age, becoming a dark chocolate brown, and sometimes develop a blue colouration to the bottom of the abdomen. The wings also develop a brown tinge with age. In all cases the legs have a cream or yellow stripe on a black background - this is a diagnostic feature of this species.

Adults can be seen on the wing all year round in southern Europe but in northern regions they occur from June to November.

This small Dragonfly is seen in a wide variety of habitats, including lakes, ponds, canals and slow-flowing rivers. They are ambush predators, waiting on a prominent perch - such as a leaf or the top of a gate, until prey fly past, whereupon they will fly after it. They are territorial on breeding waters, often attempting to chase much bigger Dragonflies away such as Southern Hawkers. This habit of repeatedly returning to a sunny spot allows you to easily predict where they are going to land, which is why it is one of the easiest dragonflies to photograph.

In suitable hunting areas away from water, however, they are not territorial: large numbers may assemble - groups of several hundred in a single field have been recorded - and lines of insects can be seen along the top of field gates.

This is a generalist lowland species found in small shallow pools and sheltered lakes. Rapidly colonises newly created sites. Can tolerate brackish water but avoids heavily shaded, densely vegetated and highly eutrophic sites.

Flight from mid May to November according to locality.


The Reproduction and Development
At breeding sites males occupy perches on ground or on low perch and aggressively chase rival males. Unattached females are grasped and is taken to perch for copulation.

Oviposition occurs with pair in tandem. Male controls behaviour and site selection when in tandem. Male will hover and drop causing female abdomen to touch water surface. Females will also oviposit alone in flight. Eggs are not laid, but broadcast from the air: the male holds the female in tandem and swings her down and forward over water at a height of around 40cm. At the furthest point of the arc the female releases some of her eggs to fall on the water.

Larvae stay amongst vegetation. Larval development is completed in one year.


The Distribution
This species can be found southern and central Europe to central Scandinavia, northern Africa, across Asia to Japan. 


The Protection Status
This is one of the most abundant dragonflies in Europe, and populations show no evidence of decline.


The Species on Stamps



With courteous to Mr. Richard Lewington for the Dragonfly Illustration
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