markgtelfer's picture

Sympetrum flaveolum possibly

Observed: 3rd July 2011 By: markgtelferInvertebrates expert
Sympetrum flaveolum possibly 2011-07-03

There were lots of Ruddy Darters Sympetrum sanguineum at the site. This individual caught my eye and I grabbed a photo which wasn't well focussed but does show a lot of yellow in the wings. I then took my eye off it while moving closer and never saw it again. It looks like Yellow-winged Darter to me but would anyone be prepared to say for definite what this is?

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RoyW's picture

Pity you couldn't get a better photo.

The yellow seems too extensive for typical sanguineum, and as well as seemingly covering a large area of the basal half of the wings it also seems to be present at the nodes (the bend in the middle of the front edge of the wing - look either side of the head in the photo). This seems to be well within the normal variation for flaveolum, some of which show less yellow.
The illustrations in Grover and Ikin (Leceistershires Dragonflies for anyone who is wondering - I had to google the names to find out!), show the maximum extent of the yellow wing bases in typical sanguineum - far less than there appears to be here.

Having said that, I do think that this is perhaps most likely to be sanguineum from what I can see.
It is certainly not a female flaveolum, which would show a distinctive black stripe along the side of the abdomen, and I would expect the underside of the abdomen to appear blacker on any flaveolum. It's harder to rule out an immature male, but the partial dark 'streaks' along the side of the abdomen segments suggest that it is a female (no features can clearly be seen to confirm sex). If the legs could be seen clearly it would help, and there is certainly no yellow stripe visible (expected on flaveolum), but they also don't look quite as black as might be expected on sanguineum (perhaps just due to being out of focus and behind the wings).

I'm not aware of any sanguineum with extensive yellow markings on the wings previously being recorded in the UK, but I have seen them with extensively yellow wings abroad (including at the nodes in south-west Turkey).

Dryopithecus's picture

Beginner's Luck?

It seems my identification was more by luck than by good judgement.

I suspect some of the colouring may be put down to the background, (see the greenish colour just below the thorax, and the head and thorax are both yellow, to add to the confusion), but you're quite right about the yellow along the front edge of the wings, especially the left forewing.

Next time I mention a source book, I shall give more data. My apologies!


RoyW's picture

Wing colouring/references.

I actually believe that the colour is genuine rather than a photographic effect - although I know that colours from the background can have an effect. The colouring on the wings seems too intense to me to be anything but actual pigmentation (and I think that the greener colour below the dragonfly is the background colour being seen through yellow).

As far as referencing source books goes, quoting just the authors names is something that is very easy to do (I know I often refer to "Dijkstra/Lewington"* on online forums without giving additional details - which I should probably give!). For less well known regional guides I would certainly try and give more details though (if I thought about it at the time and wasn't posting in a hurry! ;o) ).

*"Field Guide to the Dragonflies of Britain and Europe"

markgtelfer's picture


Thanks both for your comments on this darter - your time is much appreciated. Its frustrating not to be able to conclusively identify this individual but it's been a good learning experience.

James Lowen (a magnet for rare Odonata) saw the same or similar darter at the site on 30 June but also failed to clinch ID.

RoyW's picture

I know the feeling!

I can't say that this isn't an immature male flaveolum, but I can't see anything in your photo to suggest that it definitely is.

For interest, here's a link to a (low res) photo of a yellow winged sanguineum that I took in Turkey a few years ago: