The ruddy darter larvae, after one year, emerges between May and September from its watery vegetative surroundings as a dragonfly. It will sit atop the tall canes and rushes, observing for opportunities to snatch prey whilst in flight and shoo away competitors from its immediate area. Mating is also on the wing, the pair coupled together first in tandem then a “mating wheel” position.
Once disengaged, the female will jettison her eggs and, if the male stays to guard this process, more eggs will be deposited onto the water’s surface which, in coastal areas, may be fairly brackish.
Once beyond November, no more flight sightings will occur until the next emergence season arrives.
Ruddy darter dragonflies can catch their food faster than they can eat it. They have even been observed hoarding up to eight fruit flies in their mouth parts at once!
In the UK, the ruddy darter dragonfly is mostly observed in southern England although its range appears to be extending northward and westward, with recent confirmed sightings in Scotland. It favours still, shallow, waters with tall emergent vegetation where fish are unable to access, such as ponds exposed to sunlight.
By conserving dune slacks and their grassy vegetation, an area where freshwater pools can form, Dynamic Dunescapes are ensuring the ruddy darter dragonflies’ preferred habitat and breeding grounds continue to exist.
The ruddy darter is a medium sized dragonfly, being 34-36mm in length with a wingspan of up to 60mm, the female being the smaller. Adult males have blood red abdomens whilst younger males and females’ abdomens are yellow-ochre but all have the distinguishing feature of all-black legs.