Platycnemis pennipes

The White-legged Damselfly is an uncommon damselfly of southern England

The White-legged Damselfly, also known as Blue Featherleg, has distinctive broad, creamy-white legs with long hairs on the tibia giving a feathery appearance. Other characteristic features of this damselfly are the pale orange pterostigma – the coloured cells found towards the tips of each wing, and a combination of a broad black ante-humeral stripe on the top of the thorax and two finer stripes on the side of the thorax that join towards the head.

White-legged Damselflies are found locally along slow flowing muddy-bottomed rivers across southern England and often in association with Banded Demoiselles who share a preference for this habitat. Their flight season is typically between May and August.

Pre-mating courtship rituals are reported to be complex in this species. Females will use a bouncy, jerking flight to first attract males, who then will show their white legs in a fluttering display flight in front of females prior to mating.

Episyrphus balteatus

The Marmalade Fly is the UK’s most common hoverfly

Episyrphus balteatus, also known as the Marmalade Fly or the Marmalade Hoverfly, is found in large numbers throughout the UK . It can be seen in all months of the year, although the peak abundance is in late July.

It is a very variable species with the ground colour depending on the temperature at which the larvae developed. Dark individuals are typically found earlier in the year and are associated with cooler conditions.

Larvae feed on a variety of aphid species, including crop pests such as cereal aphids and Cabbage Aphid. Marmalade Hoverflies are valued by gardeners as the adults help pollinate flowers and food crops.

Dorcus parallelipipedus

The Lesser Stag Beetle is a large beetle typically found in woodlands, parklands, and gardens in central and southern England

Despite being smaller than it’s more well-known relative, the Lesser Stag Beetle, Dorcus parallelipipedus, is large, up to 3 cm in length with large jaws. It is often found throughout summer in woodland, parks and gardens wherever there are old, rotting trees that it’s larvae live in and feed on.

The females, as shown here, have smaller mandibles than the males. Unlike the males, the entire body of the females, including the mandibles, is strongly punctured and shiny, and they also have two closely-spaced tubercles on the head.

Eggs are laid in rotting wood above ground level, with larvae taking one to two years to mature. Adults can live for up to two years and may be found sheltering overwinter in plant pots in the garden.

Distinctive tubercles on the head of a female Lesser Stag Beetle

Panorpa communis

The Common Scorpionfly is a spectacular, but harmless fly of hedgerows and nettle patches.

The Common Scorpionfly is one of about 600 species in the Order Mecoptera, or Scorpionflies. They are not true flies (Diptera) and are more closely related to fleas. They are an ancient Order of insects with fossil records dating back to the Upper Permian, over 250 million years ago.

Like other scorpionflies, the Common Scorpionfly has long, beak-like mouth parts, long wings, and a cylindrical abdomen. In the male this typically curves up at the end with an enlarged genital bulb at the tip, so that it appears to resemble the tail of a scorpion although it contains no sting. This structure is absent in the females.

They are common throughout large parts of the UK and can be found in damp and shady hedgerows and particularly on banks of nettles. Despite having large wings, they do not fly long distances, preferring to crawl over damp vegetation in search of their preferred foods, including dead insects and plant sap.

Female Scorpionfly, June 2020

Sympetrum sanguieum

The Ruddy Darter is a dragonfly of shallow ponds in south-east England

Female and immature Ruddy Darters are ochre while mature males are blood red in colour. They are similar to the Common Darter and are distinguished from the latter by having all black legs, the males a noticeably wasted abdomen, and the females and immatures have a characteristic t-shaped black mark on the thorax.

They have a long flight season, typically from mid-May until the first frosts of October or November. They prefer well vegetated ponds, and although most common in south-east England, their range is increasing northward in the UK.

Female Ruddy Darter, Earth Trust, June 2020
Male Ruddy Darter, Norfolk, July, 2018

Libellula quadrimaculata

The Four-spotted Chaser is an easily recognised, relatively common dragonfly of still waters

The Four-spotted Chaser takes its name from the dark spots on the nodes of each wing: a unique and distinctive patterning for a European dragonfly. In the UK it has a long flight season, from late April to mid September, but is most commonly found in early summer.

Unlike some other dragonflies, the males and females of Libellula quadrimaculata are similar in appearance. They are typically found at the edge of shallow ponds and lakes. They readily perch on bare twigs and the storks of plants repeatedly returning to the same perch, making them a great subject for photography.

Males will patrol the surface of ponds driving off rivals, and once they have successfully mated with a female will hover above her as she lays her eggs.