Sussex Dragonfly Group

Hairy Dragonfly (Hairy Hawker)
Brachytron pratense (Muller, 1764)
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Suborder: Anisoptera
Family: Aeshnidae

Hairy Dragonfly
(Hairy Hawker)
Brachytron pratense

Suborder: Anisoptera
Family: Aeshnidae

This is our earliest dragonfly of the year, appearing from mid April onwards. When perched, the hairy thorax, from which it gets its name, is very evident. The thorax in the male is brown with green stripes and the abdomen is black with blue spots. Females are similar, but the blue is replaced by yellow.

Brachytron pratense
1 / 9
Adult male
Photo: Simon Linington
Brachytron pratense
2 / 9
female
Photo: Simon Linington
Brachytron pratense
3 / 9
Adult female
Photo: David Sadler
Brachytron pratense
4 / 9
female
Photo: Simon Linington
Brachytron pratense
5 / 9
male
Photo: Simon Linington
Brachytron pratense
6 / 9
ovipositing female
Photo: David Sadler
Brachytron pratense
7 / 9
male
Photo: David Sadler
Brachytron pratense
8 / 9
male
Photo: David Sadler
Brachytron pratense
9 / 9
mating
Photo: David Sadler

More images

National status
Becoming increasingly common and widespread across England and Wales, but rare in Scotland.

Status in Sussex
Rather localised along the county’s river systems and in its coastal wetlands but slowly expanding its range and consolidating this in the east. Listed in the Sussex Rare Species Inventory. It is unclear whether the slightly reduced number of 1km squares that the species has been recorded in during the last 15 years is due to changed recorder coverage or other factors.

Distribution at 1km scale

Brachytron pratense distribution (all)
Brachytron pratense distribution pre 1980
Brachytron pratense distribution 1980 - 1989
Brachytron pratense distribution 1990 - 1999
Brachytron pratense distribution 2000 - 2009
Brachytron pratense distribution 2010 - 2019
Brachytron pratense distribution 2010 on

Historical records
According to Unwin’s account in Merrifield (1860), this species was frequently encountered during his surveying in the 1850s. Lucas and Bloomfield (1905) also listed reports from the Abbots Wood area near Polegate where it still occurs despite significant plantings made by the Forestry Commission. Craven (1922) and Dannreuther (1939) also included other sightings in their reports, but Chelmick’s survey results (1979) suggested a decline along the coastal levels and river valleys in the far east of the county. More sympathetic farming practices over recent years, encouraged by agri-environment schemes, probably accounts for the steady improvement in this dragonfly’s status.

Flight times
Mid April - early July. There is some evidence that flight times are becoming earlier.

Phenology (adult)

Brachytron pratense phenology (all)
Brachytron pratense phenology pre 1980
Brachytron pratense phenology 1980 - 1989
Brachytron pratense phenology 1990 - 1999
Brachytron pratense phenology 2000 - 2009
Brachytron pratense phenology 2010 - 2019
Brachytron pratense phenology 2010 on
Brachytron pratense habitat
1 / 1
Hairy Dragonfly habitat at Amberley Wild Brooks
Photo: Simon Linington

Habitat
Clean, still-water bodies such as lakes, ponds, old gravel pits, canals and ditches with an abundance of vegetation.

Conservation
This species has been badly affected by intensive farming since World War Two. More recently, however, it has benefited from schemes such as Countryside Stewardship that have encouraged more traditional land management and helped protect wetland habitats like grazing meadows and associated ditches. At Amberley Wild Brooks, this species thrives only in areas where the typical grazing regime continues. The cattle poach the edges of the dykes and maintain open habitats for the males to patrol. The high banks from the excavated dykes provide shelter for flying during windy conditions. In areas of the Brooks where grazing has ceased, Hairy Dragonfly no longer occurs. Consistently warmer springs are leading to the earlier emergence of nymphs.

Similar species
See Southern Hawker for potential confusion species (and photographic comparison).

This is our earliest dragonfly of the year, appearing from mid April onwards. When perched, the hairy thorax, from which it gets its name, is very evident. The thorax in the male is brown with green stripes and the abdomen is black with blue spots. Females are similar, but the blue is replaced by yellow.

Brachytron pratense
1 / 9
Adult male
Photo: Simon Linington
Brachytron pratense
2 / 9
female
Photo: Simon Linington
Brachytron pratense
3 / 9
Adult female
Photo: David Sadler
Brachytron pratense
4 / 9
female
Photo: Simon Linington
Brachytron pratense
5 / 9
male
Photo: Simon Linington
Brachytron pratense
6 / 9
ovipositing female
Photo: David Sadler
Brachytron pratense
7 / 9
male
Photo: David Sadler
Brachytron pratense
8 / 9
male
Photo: David Sadler
Brachytron pratense
9 / 9
mating
Photo: David Sadler

National status
Becoming increasingly common and widespread across England and Wales, but rare in Scotland.

Status in Sussex
Rather localised along the county’s river systems and in its coastal wetlands but slowly expanding its range and consolidating this in the east. Listed in the Sussex Rare Species Inventory. It is unclear whether the slightly reduced number of 1km squares that the species has been recorded in during the last 15 years is due to changed recorder coverage or other factors.

Distribution at 1km scale

Brachytron pratense distribution (all)
Brachytron pratense distribution bre 1980
Brachytron pratense distribution 1980 - 1989
Brachytron pratense distribution 1990 - 1999
Brachytron pratense distribution 2000 - 2009
Brachytron pratense distribution 2010 - 2019
Brachytron pratense distribution 2020 on

Historical records
According to Unwin’s account in Merrifield (1860), this species was frequently encountered during his surveying in the 1850s. Lucas and Bloomfield (1905) also listed reports from the Abbots Wood area near Polegate where it still occurs despite significant plantings made by the Forestry Commission. Craven (1922) and Dannreuther (1939) also included other sightings in their reports, but Chelmick’s survey results (1979) suggested a decline along the coastal levels and river valleys in the far east of the county. More sympathetic farming practices over recent years, encouraged by agri-environment schemes, probably accounts for the steady improvement in this dragonfly’s status.

Flight times
Mid April - early July. There is some evidence that flight times are becoming earlier.

Phenology (adult)

Brachytron pratense phenology (all)
Brachytron pratense phenology pre 1980
Brachytron pratense phenology 1980 - 1989
Brachytron pratense phenology 1990 - 1999
Brachytron pratense phenology 2000 - 2009
Brachytron pratense phenology 2010 - 2019
Brachytron pratense phenology 2020 on
Brachytron pratense habitat
1 / 1
Hairy Dragonfly habitat at Amberley Wild Brooks
Photo: Simon Linington

Habitat
Clean, still-water bodies such as lakes, ponds, old gravel pits, canals and ditches with an abundance of vegetation.

Conservation
This species has been badly affected by intensive farming since World War Two. More recently, however, it has benefited from schemes such as Countryside Stewardship that have encouraged more traditional land management and helped protect wetland habitats like grazing meadows and associated ditches. At Amberley Wild Brooks, this species thrives only in areas where the typical grazing regime continues. The cattle poach the edges of the dykes and maintain open habitats for the males to patrol. The high banks from the excavated dykes provide shelter for flying during windy conditions. In areas of the Brooks where grazing has ceased, Hairy Dragonfly no longer occurs. Consistently warmer springs are leading to the earlier emergence of nymphs.

Similar species
See Southern Hawker for potential confusion species (and photographic comparison).