Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)

A very active red-bodied (♂), southern Sympetrum with, apparently, an unusual life cycle: rapid egg and larva development producing two generations a year.

This is a very widely spread dragonfly, as you can see from the collection of observation flags above. Its status in the UK seems open to debate. Long regarded as a frequent migrant, it now appears to be have extended its territory and become established; at least, so says Smallshire and Swash. However, Brooks/Lewington seems less sure. For the moment, I’m showing it as resident.

ID Notes

  • yellow pterostigma outlined in black along leading and trailing edges
  • larger/prominent wing veins red (mature ♂)/yellow (♀)
  • ♂ – red frons
  • underside of eyes, blue-ish
  • yellow patch at base of hind-wings
male
immature male
female
in cop ovipositing in flight
3 comments on “Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
  1. Malcolm Wilton-Jones says:

    I could be wrong but I think your first picture of a Red-veined Darter is not as it has red centres to the stigma and not yellow. Might it be a Ruddy Darter?

  2. Malcolm Wilton-Jones says:

    Second thoughts, it’s the Common Darter which has the red stigma. I’m still trying to figure out all these similar species.

    • JC says:

      Well, it’s good to be made to re-examine old decisions – this one is from 2009. I’ve been back to my original full-sized RAW image.

      OK, I see your point about the pterostigmas – they do look a little pinkish, don’t they? I suspect that’s a combination of the light and the angle of view. It may also have been my post-processing not helping with a little extra saturation. However, the strongest indicator for S. fonscolombii here is the blue-grey underside to the eye. combine that with the red veining on the wings and the modest yellow patch at the root of the wings and I’m confident about this being S. fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter). The pterostigmas do have the thick black edging front and back which is also typical.

      Common Darter (S. striolatum). You’re right in that they do tend to have a reddish centre to the pterostigmas. They, though, have a clearly brown eye. The body colour is also a more orange-red than this bright red colour. Also, there is a clear two-tone effect in the colouring of their thorax sides. The striped legs are right, though (see below).

      Ruddy Darter (S. sanguineum). These always have plain black legs with no light stripe running down them, as here and as in S. striolatum. In the UK, the leg colour is the most definitive distinction between these two though we have less Sympetrum species to cause confusion. They have a deep, blood red when mature but concentrate on their plain black legs.

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