Red-veined Darter – Sympetrum fonscolombii

European common name: Red-veined Darter

The Red-veined Darter – Sympetrum fonscolombii, is a fairly regular visitor to England from Southern Europe, but perhaps less frequently than it once was. It pops up in Bedfordshire sporadically, and is well worth keeping an eye out for.


LibellulidaeChasers, Skimmers, & Darters

A small dragonfly with a predominantly red or yellow body and a distinctive wing venation. The only Darter with blue eyes likely to be seen in the region. Very territorial and will chase off other males.

The male is predominantly red, with a straighter abdomen than Bedfordshire’s other Darters. The abdomen is scarlet, with a black spot on the medial line of segments 8 and 9. The thorax is red brown, with a single yellow stipe on each side angling down from the wings towards the head. The wings of the male have diagnostic red costa and red veins between the costa and middle of each wing, extending from the base of the wing up to the node. The base of the hindwing is suffused with amber.

The female is predominantly yellow with paler sides but otherwise resembles the darker Common Darter – Sympetrum striolatum. The wings of the female have diagnostic yellow costa and yellow veins between the costa and middle of each wing, extending from the base of the wing up to the node. The top of the thorax features a dark ‘T‘ marking.

While both sexes are similar in appearance to the regions other Darters, a distinguishing is the eyes; deep red from above, and blue below. The wings are clear, with yellow orange pterostigma that are prominently outlined in black, more thickly on the leading edge. The legs of both sexes are black, with yellow stripes down the length of each limb. 

Overall length: 33 – 40 mm
Wings: 26 – 31 mm


The Red-veined Darter is a distinctive species with the male’s diagnostic wing venation, the female’s yellow costa and pterostigma, and both sexes having partially blue eyes. An occasional visitor to the region, it can easily be mistaken for other Darter species and overlooked.

  • Ruddy Darter – Sympetrum sanguineum
    The Ruddy Darter’s abdomen is much less straight than the Red-veined, with the male having a characteristic ‘waist’. The female abdomen is thicker than with the Ruddy. Neither sex has any blue colouring in the eyes, the legs are all black, and there is no coloured venation in the wings.
  • Common Darter – Sympetrum striolatum
    The male Common Darter’s abdomen is shorter, and much less straight, appearing more ‘waisted’ than the Red-veined. The female thorax is predominately yellow from the sides, and more intensely coloured than the Red-veined. Neither sex has any blue colouring in the eyes or coloured venation in the wings.

Warm shallow and still waters, favours bare sites without dense vegetation.

I’ve seen these at Marston Thrift, and they have been reported at the nearby Marston Vale Country Park and also at Broom and Sandy.

They have successfully bred in the UK but a lasting population has yet to establish itself. Recorded occurrences have reduced, but this may simply be they are overlooked.

Visible between June and September, peaking in July.

Red-veined Darter - Sympetrum fonscolombii Male at Marston Thrift.
Male Broad-bodied Chaser – Libellula depressa

External links for Red-veined Darter – Sympetrum fonscolombii:
British Dragonfly Society | Wikipedia