Ruddy darter (Sympetrum sanguineum)

Male ruddy darter perched on branch
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Ruddy darter fact file

Ruddy darter description


The ruddy darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) takes its name from its colour and its swift flight behaviour. The male dragonfly has a deep russet colour over the entire body and the abdomen has a pinched section close to where it joins the thorax. Females are slightly smaller, golden yellow in colour and being less obviously marked, are more difficult to identify than the males. There is more than one red coloured darter in the UK and they can be easily confused with each other. The commonest red species, the common darter, can be distinguished as having red veins at the base of the wings and a less ruddy colouration across the body. This is more readily visible when the insect is at rest. However, the ruddy darter has entirely black legs, distinguishing it from all other red darters which have longitudinal yellow stripes on their legs. This feature alone cannot be used to identify the red darter, since immature black darters also have entirely black legs.

Le Sympétrum Rouge Sang, Le Sympétrum Sanguin, Sympétrum Sanguin.
Average body length: 34 mm
Wingspan: 55 mm

Ruddy darter biology

Ruddy darters appear late in the season, usually towards the end of June and have gone by early September. The mating adults often fly coupled, and perform a dipping flight over the water, the female releasing eggs which the male has fertilised. The larvae spend a year beneath the surface before emerging to hatch into adults.


Ruddy darter range

The UK range of the ruddy darter has undergone something of an expansion in recent years. Although still relatively uncommon in the west and north of Britain, it is increasing in numbers in the Midlands and Eastern England. Worldwide, the species is found over most of Europe except for northern Scandinavia, as far east as western Siberia and south to North Africa.

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Ruddy darter habitat

Ruddy darters seem to prefer water bodies with tall emergent vegetation, such as reeds and club rush, and are known to breed in ponds, lakes, canals and ditches. They can also be found near coasts and can breed in fairly brackish water.


Ruddy darter status

The ruddy darter is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Ruddy darter threats

The ruddy darter is currently not considered to be under any threat.


Ruddy darter conservation

There are currently no conservation projects specifically aimed at the ruddy darter.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Find out more

For more on British dragonflies see the British Dragonfly Society



Information supplied by English Nature.



In arthropods (crustaceans, insects and arachnids) the abdomen is the hind region of the body, which is usually segmented to a degree (but not visibly in most spiders). In crustacea (e.g. crabs) some of the limbs attach to the abdomen; in insects the limbs are attached to the thorax (the part of the body nearest to the head) and not the abdomen. In vertebrates the abdomen is the part of the body that contains the internal organs (except the heart and lungs).
Slightly salty water.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Part of the body located near the head in animals. In insects, the three segments between the head and the abdomen, each of which has a pair of legs.


  1.  IUCN Red List (March, 2011)

Image credit

Male ruddy darter perched on branch  
Male ruddy darter perched on branch

© Luis Casiano / Biosphoto

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