Collectively, dragonflies and damselflies belong to the group (or Order) of insects known as Odonata, divided into two distinct groups or sub-orders; Anisoptera (true dragonflies) and Zygoptera (damselflies).
Key information about dragonflies:
- Typically dragonflies are larger and more robust than damselflies, and have a faster and more powerful flight.
- Dragonflies have large eyes that usually meet at the top of the head.
- Dragonflies have dissimilar sized pairs of wings – Anisoptera means ‘unequal wings’.
- Dragonflies normally rest with their wings spread open.
14 species of dragonfly can be found in Bedfordshire:
The Southern Hawker – Aeshna cyanea, is an abundant and easy to spot dragonfly. It’s a tireless and agile flier that seldom settles for long.
The Brown Hawker – Aeshna grandis, is an abundant and easy to spot dragonfly that is often seen late in the day.
The Migrant Hawker – Aeshna mixta, is a mid-sized dragonfly and despite the name it is firmly established in the region.
The Emperor Dragonfly – Anax imperator, is a common and easy to spot dragonfly owing to its tireless flight, size and colouring.
The Hairy Dragonfly – Brachytron pratense, is a tireless flier, and up close it’s very easy to see why it gets its name.
The Downy Emerald – Cordulia aenea, is a metallic green dragonfly with a distinctly clubbed tail and prominent bright green eyes. Uncommon in Bedfordshire, restricted to a few local sites.
The Broad-bodied Chaser – Libellula depressa, is a beautiful dragonfly that often visits new ponds.
The Scarce Chaser – Libellula fulva, is a mid-sized dragonfly that undergoes striking colour changes during its life.
The Four-spotted Chaser – Libellula quadrimaculata, is a mid-sized dragonfly with distinctive wing patterns that give it its name. Often returns to the same perch in between feeding and defending its territory.
The Black-tailed Skimmer – Orthetrum cancellatum, is a very fast and active flyer.
The Keeled Skimmer – Orthetrum coerulescens, is a recent addition to the County list. It’s smaller size and slender body help distinguish it from the similar Black-tailed Skimmer - Orthetrum cancellatum.
The Red-veined Darter – Sympetrum fonscolombii, is a fairly regular visitor to England from Southern Europe, popping up most summers, but perhaps less frequently than it once was.
The Ruddy Darter – Sympetrum sanguineum, is a mid-sized dragonfly that is easily overlooked due its very close resemblance to the Common Darter – Sympetrum striolatum.
The Common Darter – Sympetrum striolatum, is aptly named and is common throughout Bedfordshire, often flying late into the autumn.