Almost 80 species of Dragon-Damselfly have been recorded on the Spanish mainland and in Balearic Islands, with a further two or three which are restricted to the Canary Islands.
I am going to start-off with the Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) it was by far the commonest species I recorded and was seen in almost every type of habitat visited from lowland, slow moving rivers and pools, down near the coast, and up to damp flushes at 2600 metres in the Sierra Nevada. It is a medium sized (one of the larger species in the Darter / Sympetrum group) fast moving insect which can sometimes be found in very large numbers at a site after a mass emergence. The adult male has a bright red/orange abdomen with a couple of black marks in segments 8 & 9 (but these can be quite variable); there are also black streaks on the side of the abdomen running its full length. The female’s abdomen remains yellow but shows some extra black markings near the thorax. The veins on the leading edge and near the base of both the fore and hind wings are yellow in a newly emerged insect and become bright red in an adult male but remain yellow in a female. Both sexes have a prominent yellow patch at the base of the hind wing but this is usually larger in the male and a pale black sided pterostigma (a conspicuous often dark area on the leading edge of the wing near the tip). The thorax on the male is mainly a red / brown colour but the sides can show a varying amount of grey and often has a pale streak below the forewing base; the female’s thorax is yellow with blue / grey sides.
The adult male has a bright red / orange abdomen with a couple of black marks in segments 8 and 9, but these can be quitevariable. The female’s abdomen remains yellow but shows some extra black markings near to where it joins the thorax.
As with quite a few dragonfly species the eye can be a key part of the identification. In the adult male the upper half of the compound eye is a deep red, but is much browner in the female. The under part of the eye is blue or blue/ grey in both sexes at all ages and distinguishes it from several similar species. Newly emerged insects of both sexes are yellowish and look shinny and reflective (this applies to most species) but they soon start to get their adult colouration, which becomes darker the older the insect gets with some very old females starting to take on a similar colouration to the males.
Mick Richardson – ABS Member