White faced darter dragonfly

One of the rarest dragonflies in the UK, the white faced darter is located in shallow peaty pools in the lowland peat bogs of the Scottish Highlands and the English Midlands. Territorial organisms, they can often be spotted roosting on trees and bushes up to 50 metres away from a bog. It can be seen through the summer months catching smaller prey on the wing, consuming them on a perch away from the bog.

Fast Facts

Latin name: Leucorrhinia dubia

Notable feature: Black body with red and orange markings on abdomen and thorax, pale creamy white face, two pairs of densely veined wings with a brown patch at the base.

Rarity in the UK: Rare / Common

Where in the UK: Isolated sites in the English Midlands and the Scottish Highlands

There be dragons!

Dragonflies are an ancient group dating back 300 million years. These insects are characterised by large multifaceted eyes, a long slender body and 2 pairs of wings which lie open when at rest. Dragonflies often come in a variety of beautiful iridescent colouring.

Amazing life cycle!

Mating takes place in heather near the bog. After this the female will deposit eggs in Sphagnum moss at the edge of the bog. Nymphs spend up to 2 years hunting in this matrix of bog and moss using jet propulsion from their rear end to propel them while also using legs to walk. They predate on smaller invertebrates extending the lower part of their jaw to trap prey. After several moults, the adults emerge onto the stem of a plant. They metamorphose, pump their wings out and fly away. The adults will remain active until the winter when they will die.

Degradation of habitat!

The White faced darter is extremely susceptible to the destruction of lowland peatbogs. They require acidic pools with a proliferation of Sphagnum at the edges in which to lay their eggs. They also require scrubland away from the peat bog in which to roost. They have suffered a decline in the last 40 years as 90% of lowland peat bog in Britain has been lost due to excessive cultivation and pollution. Removal of Sphagnum moss for commercial purposes has also decimated populations by destroying eggs within it. The White faced darter is now found in only half of the sites in which it used to inhabit throughout the UK. There are some signs of a comeback though with a recent introduction in Cheshire off to a successful start.

Did you know?

Nymphs in water where fish are present have been shown to grow bigger spines on their back to prevent predation

Habitat

Lowland peatbogs