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.

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.

Bombylius major

The Dark-edged Bee-fly is a parasitic bee mimic fly

The Dark-edged Bee Fly, or Large Bee-fly, is the commonest of four species species of Bee-fly found in the UK. They appear a bit like bumble bees with their furry bodies, but have a long proboscis used for drinking nectar from flowers. The Dark-edged Bee Fly is identified by the dark leading edges to it’s wings, most clearly seen when the insect is at rest.

Bee-flys are parasitic on solitary bees. Females will hover above the next holes of solitary bees and flick eggs into the hole. To facilitate this, the females will first collect dust and fine soil with which they coat the eggs prior to flicking into the bee’s nest holes.

Dark-edged Bee Flies are typically seen on the wing in March through to May or June, and are particularly active on warmer, sunny days.

Cercopis vulnerata

A gaudy member of the Froghopper family

The Red and Black Froghopper (Cercopis vulnerata) is a brightly coloured froghopper, and, according to British Bugs, found throughout Britain south of the Scottish Highlands.

They occur in a wide variety of setting, including parks and gardens as well as forest edges.

Froghoppers take their name from their ability to jump using their saltatory (extended) back legs. The insect has been recorded making jumps of up to 70 cm.

Ephemera vulgata

A species of Mayfly found along the River Thames

Ephemera vulgata is characterised by spotted wings and dark triangular markings on the sides of it’s abdomen.

The adults emerge in spring and early summer near ponds and slow moving rivers. It is found along the River Thames where nymphs burrow into the muddy sediments. In contrast, the similar Ephemera dancia, or the ‘Green drake‘, is typically associated with clear water rivers with gravel or sandy bottoms.

Although not uncommon, Ephemera vulgata is in decline with documented threats including reductions in water quality (increasing pesticides and heavy metals) and light pollution.

Xanthogramma pedissequum

An eye catching hoverfly with an unusual life cycle

Xanthogramma pedissequum is an eye catching hoverfly on the wing from May to September.

It’s an uncommon hoverfly, with records in the National Biodiversity Network Atlas suggesting a quite localised distribution throughout central and southern England.

According to Wikipedia, the larval stages are associated with Black garden ants (Lasius niger) and Yellow meadow ants (Lasius flavus) and probably feed on ant-attended root aphids.

The photograph was taken during the last week of April in a hay meadow adjacent to the Thames at the Earth Trust, Little Wittenham.