Sussex Dragonfly Group

Identification guide

In order to home in on the identification of a species that you’ve seen in Sussex, the following table may help. It groups damselflies and dragonflies primarily on the characteristics of the adult male insects which will be those most often encountered. Identification of some of the females can be a bit more tricky and might involve reference to the ‘Similar species’ sections in the species accounts and to the photos on this and the British Dragonfly Society websites. Those species shown as ‘restricted’ below occur in a very limited number of locations (see maps in species accounts) while those shown as ‘rare’ or ‘very rare’ should not be considered until all other possibilities have been exhausted!

Small, delicate, aerial, predatory insects, both pairs of wings of equal size and folded along back at rest (except Emeralds). Damselflies
Large, robust, aerial, predatory insects, pairs of wings different in size and held out from body at rest. Dragonflies

Damselflies
Perch with wings held open or partly open. Predominantly metallic green some with blue Emerald Damselfly, Willow Emerald Damselfly (restricted), Scarce Emerald Damselfly (very rare), Southern Emerald Damselfly (very rare)
Predominantly metallic blue-green (male) with noticeable colour on wings Banded Demoiselle, Beautiful Demoiselle
Predominantly red Large Red Damselfly, Small Red Damselfly (restricted)
Predominantly pale blue (male) with noticeably white legs White-legged Damselfly
Predominantly blue (male) – red eyes Red-eyed Damselfly, Small Red-eyed Damselfly
Predominantly blue (male) – black abdomen with blue at tip Blue-tailed Damselfly, Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (very rare)
Predominantly blue (male) - other Azure Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly, Variable Damselfly (restricted)

Dragonflies
Brown - brownish wings Brown Hawker
Brown – distinct spots on wings Four-spotted Chaser
Brown – green eyes Norfolk Hawker (very rare)
Long, black & yellow striped Golden-ringed Dragonfly
Small, black & some yellow (male) Black Darter (restricted)
Predominantly reddish (male) Common Darter Ruddy Darter Red-veined Darter (rare), Yellow-winged Darter (very rare), Scarlet Dragonfly (first 2019), Vagrant Darter (not since 1966)
Predominantly metallic green Brilliant Emerald, Downy Emerald
Club-shaped tail. Predominantly pale green & black (male) Common Clubtail (restricted)
Blue band / patch at top of abdomen Lesser Emperor (rare), Vagrant Emperor (very rare)
Predominantly blue abdomen (male) – green thorax. Large Emperor Dragonfly
Predominantly blue abdomen (male) – broad Broad-bodied Chaser
Predominantly blue abdomen (male) - other Scarce Chaser, Black-tailed Skimmer, Keeled Skimmer (restricted)
Abdomen spotted with blue or green (male) Migrant Hawker, Southern Hawker, Hairy Dragonfly, Southern Migrant Hawker (restricted), Common Hawker (very rare)
Other Yellow-legged Clubtail (last recorded 1818), White-faced Darter (last recorded 1914)
44 species