Sussex Dragonfly Group

Ruddy Darter
Sympetrum sanguineum (Muller, 1764)
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Suborder: Anisoptera
Family: Libellulidae

Ruddy Darter
Sympetrum sanguineum

Suborder: Anisoptera
Family: Libellulidae

This striking, bright crimson-red dragonfly has a more limited distribution than the Common Darter, but has been expanding its range in Sussex and elsewhere in the country. The male has a red-brown thorax and a bright, blood-red, ‘waisted’ abdomen with two black marks on segments 8 and 9. The female is dull yellow-brown overall with thin black lines along the sides of the abdomen. It has all-black legs unlike the Common Darter.

Sympetrum sanguineum
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immature male
Photo: David Sadler
Sympetrum sanguineum
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young male
Photo: Simon Linington
Sympetrum sanguineum
3 / 11
female
Photo: Simon Linington
Sympetrum sanguineum
4 / 11
female
Photo: Simon Linington
Sympetrum sanguineum
5 / 11
female
Photo: Simon Linington
Sympetrum sanguineum
6 / 11
male
Photo: David Sadler
Sympetrum sanguineum
7 / 11
male
Photo: David Sadler
Sympetrum sanguineum
8 / 11
male
Photo: Simon Linington
Sympetrum sanguineum
9 / 11
male
Photo: Simon Linington
Sympetrum sanguineum
10 / 11
male
Photo: Simon Linington
Sympetrum sanguineum
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mating
Photo: David Sadler

More images

National status
Most common in south-east England but extending its range.

Status in Sussex
Locally common across Sussex, but not nearly as widespread as the Common Darter. Concentrations of records occur on Pevensey Levels and Romney Marshes though with less records from the former and more from the latter in the two decades up to 2020. Listed in the Sussex Rare Species Inventory.

Distribution at 1km scale

Sympetrum sanguineum distribution (all)
Sympetrum sanguineum distribution pre 1980
Sympetrum sanguineum distribution 1980 - 1989
Sympetrum sanguineum distribution 1990 - 1999
Sympetrum sanguineum distribution 2000 - 2009
Sympetrum sanguineum distribution 2010 - 2019
Sympetrum sanguineum distribution 2010 on

Historical records
According to Dannreuther (1945) it was first recorded at Kingston near Lewes by Unwin in 1849. He also suggested that the species could die out if not reinforced by migration. Chelmick (1979) considered the species to have been more common in East Sussex than in West both historically and at the time of the 1965-1978 survey. He also noted that it “is one of the very few species to be found more abundantly on the Weald Clay and other neutral waters”. The survey for The Dragonflies of Sussex (2004) indicated a wider range, in particular across the High Weald and on the Coastal Plain; this range appears to have been maintained.

Flight times
Mid June - mid October.

Phenology (adult)

Sympetrum sanguineum phenology (all)
Sympetrum sanguineum phenology pre 1980
Sympetrum sanguineum phenology 1980 - 1989
Sympetrum sanguineum phenology 1990 - 1999
Sympetrum sanguineum phenology 2000 - 2009
Sympetrum sanguineum phenology 2010 - 2019
Sympetrum sanguineum phenology 2010 on
Sympetrum sanguineum habitat
1 / 1
Ruddy Darter habitat in an Ouse Valley ditch near Rodmell
Photo: Simon Linington

Habitat
Well-vegetated ponds, lakes, gravel pits, canals and ditches, occasionally slow-flowing waters.

Conservation
Excessive plant clearance and dredging of ponds could be disastrous for this dragonfly, whose larvae spend their lives amongst the roots of aquatic vegetation. The strong populations in our grazing meadow ditch systems point to the continued need for sympathetic farming methods in these areas.

Similar species
See Common Darter for a discussion of identification features of possible confusion darter species (and a photographic comparison).

This striking, bright crimson-red dragonfly has a more limited distribution than the Common Darter, but has been expanding its range in Sussex and elsewhere in the country. The male has a red-brown thorax and a bright, blood-red, ‘waisted’ abdomen with two black marks on segments 8 and 9. The female is dull yellow-brown overall with thin black lines along the sides of the abdomen. It has all-black legs unlike the Common Darter.

Sympetrum sanguineum
1 / 11
immature male
Photo: David Sadler
Sympetrum sanguineum
2 / 11
young male
Photo: Simon Linington
Sympetrum sanguineum
3 / 11
female
Photo: Simon Linington
Sympetrum sanguineum
4 / 11
female
Photo: Simon Linington
Sympetrum sanguineum
5 / 11
female
Photo: Simon Linington
Sympetrum sanguineum
6 / 11
male
Photo: David Sadler
Sympetrum sanguineum
7 / 11
male
Photo: David Sadler
Sympetrum sanguineum
8 / 11
male
Photo: Simon Linington
Sympetrum sanguineum
9 / 11
male
Photo: Simon Linington
Sympetrum sanguineum
10 / 11
male
Photo: Simon Linington
Sympetrum sanguineum
11 / 11
mating
Photo: David Sadler

National status
Most common in south-east England but extending its range.

Status in Sussex
Locally common across Sussex, but not nearly as widespread as the Common Darter. Concentrations of records occur on Pevensey Levels and Romney Marshes though with less records from the former and more from the latter in the two decades up to 2020. Listed in the Sussex Rare Species Inventory.

Distribution at 1km scale

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

Historical records
According to Dannreuther (1945) it was first recorded at Kingston near Lewes by Unwin in 1849. He also suggested that the species could die out if not reinforced by migration. Chelmick (1979) considered the species to have been more common in East Sussex than in West both historically and at the time of the 1965-1978 survey. He also noted that it “is one of the very few species to be found more abundantly on the Weald Clay and other neutral waters”. The survey for The Dragonflies of Sussex (2004) indicated a wider range, in particular across the High Weald and on the Coastal Plain; this range appears to have been maintained.

Flight times
Mid June - mid October.

Phenology (adult)

Sympetrum sanguineum phenology (all)
Sympetrum sanguineum phenology pre 1980
Sympetrum sanguineum phenology 1980 - 1989
Sympetrum sanguineum phenology 1990 - 1999
Sympetrum sanguineum phenology 2000 - 2009
Sympetrum sanguineum phenology 2010 - 2019
Sympetrum sanguineum phenology 2020 on
Sympetrum sanguineum habitat
1 / 1
Ruddy Darter habitat in an Ouse Valley ditch near Rodmell
Photo: Simon Linington

Habitat
Well-vegetated ponds, lakes, gravel pits, canals and ditches, occasionally slow-flowing waters.

Conservation
Excessive plant clearance and dredging of ponds could be disastrous for this dragonfly, whose larvae spend their lives amongst the roots of aquatic vegetation. The strong populations in our grazing meadow ditch systems point to the continued need for sympathetic farming methods in these areas.

Similar species
See Common Darter for a discussion of identification features of possible confusion darter species (and a photographic comparison).