An attractively marked small dragonfly of peat bog habitats, this is the only ‘red’ darter with black markings at the wing bases. The males have a mainly black abdomen marked with red on several segments; immatures and females show yellow instead of the red. The front of the head is pure white – hence the species’ name.
The White-faced has specialised habitat requirements, which always seem to include fairly deep pools with a mixture of acid open water with Sphagnum ‘lawns’ or rafts. Pine/birch woodland is often a feature of sites. The usual life cycle is two years, with adults emerging from mid May, the later individuals being on the wing into early August. They rarely stray far from breeding sites and can be very locally abundant at good sites in good years. The larvae are known to be vulnerable to predation by fish.
There are now only three known Cumbrian sites, two of which are very small – one being only discovered in 1999. These populations are increasingly important because of loss of several of the few English sites in recent years. The species is subject of a Local Biodiversity Action Plan in Cumbria: this aims to maintain existing populations, and possibly to restore one or more of the three known to have been lost during the twentieth century.
The White-faced Darter is a Cumbria Biodiversity Action Plan species.
Photo: mature male - David Clarke
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