In an attempt to encourage me to blog more frequently I have decided to start a new feature: ‘Species in Focus’ where I will regularly post about a new plant, animal or fungus species that you may not have heard of before. The first post is about one of my favourite British invertebrates, the Broad-bodied Chaser.
Identification: The Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) is a medium sized dragonfly that can be seen from early summer. As its name suggests it has a short, broad, flat abdomen with yellow markings along the edges. In males the abdomen is a stunning powder blue and in females yellowish-brown.
Both sexes have brown eyes, pale shoulder stripes and dark patches at the base of the wings. These features combined with the broad abdomen make it a very easy species to identify.
Behaviour: Males aggressively defend their territories and are often seen flying fast and erratically to chase off intruders. Mating often takes place on the wing and only lasts for a few seconds. Females can be seen depositing eggs in flight by flicking the tip of their abdomen into the water. Eggs take 2-3 weeks to hatch and the larvae live in the water for 1-3 years before emerging as adults. Peak emergence is usually in May.
Where to see: Widespread throughout most of England and Wales. Rarely seen in southern Scotland and absent from the North. Can be found in ponds and small lakes and it is often the first colonist of new water bodies. Last summer I observed them patrolling what can only be described as a large puddle. If you have a pond, put some sticks poking out of the water to tempt males to perch, as usually you only see a blue flash as one whizzes by.
Did you know? Dragonflies have many colloquial names around the world: Devil’s darning needle, Ear cutter, Horse stinger, Blindstika (blind stinger) and Gwas Neidr – from Welsh, literally the snake’s servant.