Common Darter – Sympetrum striolatum

European common name: Common Darter

The Common Darter – Sympetrum striolatum, is aptly named and is common throughout Bedfordshire, often flying late into the autumn.


LibellulidaeChasers, Skimmers, & Darters

An abundant, small, dragonfly; the most often recorded species in Bedfordshire. Like other darters, the male is generally red and the female generally yellow.

The male abdomen is thin, becoming more bulbous towards the tip, but without the narrow ‘waist’ that is a feature of the similar Ruddy Darter – Sympetrum sanguineum. The abdomen is red or dark orange, with minimal black markings on segments 8 and 9. The upper surface of the thorax is brown, with large yellow patches extending downwards beneath the wings. The eyes are a dark red brown. The immature male resembles the female in colouring.

The female is predominantly yellow or yellow ochre, with only the upper surface of the thorax appearing brown, and black markings along the side of the abdomen. The eyes are brown above and yellow green below. Females darken with age, becoming a dull brown.

The legs of both sexes are black, with prominent yellow stripes down the length of each limb. The wings have a slight yellow or orange colouring at the base and dark pterostigma.

Overall length: 33 – 44 mm
Wings: 24 – 30 mm

The Common Darter is an abundant species and similar in appearance to other Darters, which may lead to them being overlooked; separating them needs care.

  • Red-veined Darter – Sympetrum fonscolombii
    The Red-veined Darter is most easily separated by its distinctive eyes that are dark red above and blue below. The male has diagnostic red wing venation, its abdomen is narrow and straight without the ‘waist’ of the Common Darter, and a red frons giving it a red ‘face’. The female’s wings have yellow costa and yellow pterostigma that have a black leading edge, and a dark ‘T’ marking at the top of the thorax.
  • Ruddy Darter – Sympetrum sanguineum
    The Ruddy Darter has all black legs, without the obvious yellow stripe of the Common Darter. The male has a more ‘waisted’ abdomen and is a deeper red than the dark orange red of the Common Darter. The female abdomen is more slender, with a more obvious dark medial line.

Pretty much anywhere there is clean water: rivers, ponds and lakes, gravel pits.

Common away from water when not breeding.

Bedfordshire’s most common dragonfly species and likely to be found everywhere; most rivers, lakes, and ponds will support a number of them.

Visible from mid-June through to November, peaking in August and September – a long season, and often the last species on the wing.

Common Darter - Sympetrum striolatum Male, Biddenham Loop Country Walk.
Male Common Darter – Sympetrum striolatum
Common Darter - Sympetrum striolatum Female, Priory CP
Female Common Darter – Sympetrum striolatum

External links for Common Darter – Sympetrum striolatum:
British Dragonfly Society | Wikipedia