Ruddy Darter – Sympetrum sanguineum

European common name: Ruddy Darter

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.


LibellulidaeChasers, Skimmers, & Darters

A small dragonfly that may often be overlooked at first glance owing to its resemblance to the slightly larger Common Darter – Sympetrum striolatum. As is usual with Darters, the male is of generally red appearance and the female appears generally yellow.

The male has an intensely red abdomen – its latin name derives from ‘of blood’. Characteristically, the abdomen is noticeably ‘waisted’ and narrows along its length before becoming wider and more bulbous towards the tip at segments 3 and 4. Segments 8 and 9 each have a dark spot on the medial line. Small and inconspicuous dark spots may be visible on the side of the abdomen, extending from the tip mid-way to the thorax. The thorax is red brown, and without any lateral markings. Eyes are dark red above and green below. The frons is red. Immature males resemble the female in colour, attaining their red colouring as they age.

The female abdomen is yellow and more slender than the male. Segments 8 and 9 each have a dark spot on the upper surface. A dark line then extends along the medial line of the abdomen almost to the thorax. The top of the thorax, immediately behind the head, features a dark ‘T’ shape. The eyes are dark brown above and yellow green below. The frons is yellow green.

In both sexes the wings are clear, suffused with a yellow or orange colouring at the base, and brown pterostigma outlined in black. The legs are completely black unlike other regional Darter species and make for a useful identification aid.

Overall length: 34 – 39 mm
Wings: 24 – 29 mm

Ruddy Darters are similar to other Darter species in the region, but is the only one to have all black legs – which can be obvious even from a distance when perched.

  • Red-veined Darter – Sympetrum fonscolombii
    The male has diagnostic red wing venation and a straight abdomen. The female has yellow costa and yellow pterostigma. In both sexes the lower half of the eyes is obviously blue, and a yellow stripe runs down the length of each leg.
  • Common Darter – Sympetrum striolatum
    Common Darters are smaller with an obvious yellow stripe along the length of each leg. The male abdomen is less ‘waisted’ and not as intensely red as the Ruddy Darter. The head has a distinctive yellow frons, giving the appearance of a lighter coloured ‘face’ than the male Ruddy Darter. The female is closer in appearance, but the medial line on the abdomen is less prominent and they lack the ‘T’ marking found at the top of the thorax of female Ruddy Darters.

Mainly found around shallow still water sites with plenty of dense emergent vegetation.

Fairly common throughout the county at still water sites and slow rivers where dense vegetation exists.

I’ve seen them often at Felmersham NR, Marston Thrift, Priory CP, Warren Villas NR, less commonly at rivers.

Visible from mid June through to early October, peaking in August.

Ruddy Darter - Sympetrum sanguineum Male, Felmersham NR. Note the all black legs, that helps separate Ruddys from Common Darters.
Male Ruddy Darter – Sympetrum sanguineum
Ruddy Darter - Sympetrum sanguineum Pair in cop, Marston Thrift.
Ruddy Darter pair – Sympetrum sanguineum

External links for Ruddy Darter – Sympetrum sanguineum:
British Dragonfly Society | Wikipedia