Sussex Dragonfly Group

Red-veined Darter (Red-veined Sympetrum)
Sympetrum fonscolombii (Selys, 1840)
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Suborder: Anisoptera
Family: Libellulidae

Red-veined Darter
(Red-veined Sympetrum)
Sympetrum fonscolombii

Suborder: Anisoptera
Family: Libellulidae

This migrant red darter species is a regular though still quite unusual visitor to Sussex. It is attempting colonisation.

Sympetrum fonscolombii
1 / 4
immature male
Photo: David Sadler
Sympetrum fonscolombii
2 / 4
female
Photo: David Sadler
Sympetrum fonscolombii
3 / 4
male
Photo: David Sadler
Sympetrum fonscolombii
4 / 4
male
Photo: David Sadler

More images

National status
Fairly frequent migrant, principally to south-west England though scattered records from elsewhere (has reached Scotland). Breeds nearly annually, but colonies are seemingly not stable.

Status in Sussex
Most of the records between 2004 to 2020 have been scattered along the coast including, from Beachy Head, clearly indicating immigration. Larger counts include 12 at Seven Sisters Country Park on 2 June 2007 and 15 around a brackish lagoon at Newhaven Tide Mills on 3 July 2019. Inland sites have included Arlington Reservoir, Arundel WWT, Bolney Ponds, Hurston Warren (near West Chiltington), Rewell Wood and Southease. There are a number of records of larvae and exuviae.

Distribution at 1km scale

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

Historical records
Although Dannreuther (1939) listed it as a British but not a Sussex species, the Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) had in fact been recorded in Sussex at Rye Harbour in 1898 by Lt Col. Irby (Chelmick 1974). N. Moore discovered one teneral female at Rye Harbour Gravel Pits in 1947, concluding that it had bred there (Hastings & East Sussex Naturalist), and the first confirmed breeding record was of a larva found by P. Logan at Douster Pond (part of Buchan Hill Ponds) near Crawley on 29 June 1987 (Chelmick 1992). From then up to 2004 when The Dragonflies of Sussex was published, there were a further 20 sightings. 2002 was a particularly good year when individuals were seen at four separate, mainly coastal locations, including a remarkable five males seen by J. Atkinson and I. Whitcomb at Sheepcote Valley, Brighton on 17 July. A total of 34 was noted at West Rise Marsh by K Gillam on 13 June 2021.

Flight times
Mainly June to September but with some records from May, October and November. A red darter seen near the coast earlier than June could well be this species.

Phenology (adult)

Sympetrum fonscolombii phenology (all)
Sympetrum fonscolombii phenology pre 1980
Sympetrum fonscolombii phenology 1980 - 1989
Sympetrum fonscolombii phenology 1990 - 1999
Sympetrum fonscolombii phenology 2000 - 2009
Sympetrum fonscolombii phenology 2010 - 2019
Sympetrum fonscolombii phenology 2010 on

Habitat
Breeds in large shallow water bodies ( BDS website).

Similar species
See Common Darter for a discussion of identification features of possible confusion darter species (and a photographic comparison). The blue lower half of the eyes is a useful identification feature as are the red veins in the wings of the male and the yellow veins in those of the female.

This migrant red darter species is a regular though still quite unusual visitor to Sussex. It is attempting colonisation.

Sympetrum fonscolombii
1 / 4
immature male
Photo: David Sadler
Sympetrum fonscolombii
2 / 4
female
Photo: David Sadler
Sympetrum fonscolombii
3 / 4
male
Photo: David Sadler
Sympetrum fonscolombii
4 / 4
male
Photo: David Sadler

National status
Fairly frequent migrant, principally to south-west England though scattered records from elsewhere (has reached Scotland). Breeds nearly annually, but colonies are seemingly not stable.

Status in Sussex
Most of the records between 2004 to 2020 have been scattered along the coast including, from Beachy Head, clearly indicating immigration. Larger counts include 12 at Seven Sisters Country Park on 2 June 2007 and 15 around a brackish lagoon at Newhaven Tide Mills on 3 July 2019. Inland sites have included Arlington Reservoir, Arundel WWT, Bolney Ponds, Hurston Warren (near West Chiltington), Rewell Wood and Southease. There are a number of records of larvae and exuviae.

Distribution at 1km scale

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

Historical records
Although Dannreuther (1939) listed it as a British but not a Sussex species, the Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) had in fact been recorded in Sussex at Rye Harbour in 1898 by Lt Col. Irby (Chelmick 1974). N. Moore discovered one teneral female at Rye Harbour Gravel Pits in 1947, concluding that it had bred there (Hastings & East Sussex Naturalist), and the first confirmed breeding record was of a larva found by P. Logan at Douster Pond (part of Buchan Hill Ponds) near Crawley on 29 June 1987 (Chelmick 1992). From then up to 2004 when The Dragonflies of Sussex was published, there were a further 20 sightings. 2002 was a particularly good year when individuals were seen at four separate, mainly coastal locations, including a remarkable five males seen by J. Atkinson and I. Whitcomb at Sheepcote Valley, Brighton on 17 July. A total of 34 was noted at West Rise Marsh by K Gillam on 13 June 2021.

Flight times
Mainly June to September but with some records from May, October and November. A red darter seen near the coast earlier than June could well be this species.

Phenology (adult)

Sympetrum fonscolombii phenology (all)
Sympetrum fonscolombii phenology pre 1980
Sympetrum fonscolombii phenology 1980 - 1989
Sympetrum fonscolombii phenology 1990 - 1999
Sympetrum fonscolombii phenology 2000 - 2009
Sympetrum fonscolombii phenology 2010 - 2019
Sympetrum fonscolombii phenology 2020 on

Habitat
Breeds in large shallow water bodies ( BDS website).

Similar species
See Common Darter for a discussion of identification features of possible confusion darter species (and a photographic comparison). The blue lower half of the eyes is a useful identification feature as are the red veins in the wings of the male and the yellow veins in those of the female.