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You are in: Cambridgeshire > Nature > Nature Features > Dragonfly hunting in Wicken Fen

ruddy darter

The ruddy darter can be found at Wicken

Dragonfly hunting in Wicken Fen

Europe's first dragonfly centre has opened on the Wicken Fen with 21 species of the winged beast calling Cambridgeshire their home. We identify a few you can look out for.

Mythology has been kind and un-kind to the dragonfly in equal measure. The Japanese used to associate them with success and happiness while Europeans thought they were the work of the devil.

Us English have referred to them as horse stingers because it used to look like horses were reeling in pain whenever dragonflies were near. In fact the dragonflies were merely feasting on the bugs that were doing damage to the horses.

Dragonflies have fought natural selection for a long time, longer than the dinosaurs, and have come out on top, although some species are on the brink of dying out.

The new Dragonfly Centre at Wicken Fen is set to try and preserve the types of dragonfly that call the banks of the River Cam their home.

You can head there yourself and try to spot some of the flying beasts on one of the Wicken Fen dragonfly safaris. Here's a few that you might be able to spot.

Hairy dragonfly

No prizes for guessing where this one's name comes from. The hairy bit is actually on the thorax and it's sometimes called the hairy hawker.

hairy dragonfly

Hairy dragonfly

It loves fenland so it's one of the mainstays at Wicken. It hides in the grass to survive but enjoys the open flat land. It's a fan of daylight, in fact if it's not a sunny day you'll struggle to spot it.

This furry species is a master of catching bugs to eat in mid-flight, but settles down to eat it. You can recognise it by its pairs of oval spots on the abdomen, yellow on the female and blue on the male.

Variable Damselfly

This creature tends to stay clear of flowing water so expect to see it nearer the stagnant areas around Wicken. It's a lot happier around ponds.

variable deamselfly

Variable damselfly

The variable bit of its name comes from the inconsistency across the species in its patterning but it's very recognisable thanks to the bright, almost neon, blue markings.

It tends to stick to vegetation and you can find younger ones in the fields and grass around the area.

Red-eyed Damselfly

Use the name to spot this fellow. It's red eyes are deep and bulging and stand out on the damselfly's head.

red-eyed damselfly

Re-eyed damselfly

The males usually hang out by themselves and can be very protective of their space, aggresively defending the leaf or water floatation they happen to find themselves on

Once again it prefers to be around still water so head to the pools and ponds to find it, it's probably more common towards the north of the county and Northamptonshire in the Nene Valley gravel pits.

Scarce Chaser

If you see the scarce chaser at Wicken Fen, let them know! It's scarce by name, scarce by nature. The future of the insect is a concern to dragonfly lovers because its main habitat, floodplains and marshes, are in short supply.

scarce chaser

Scarce chaser

It hasn't officially been recorded at Wicken as of yet so keep a keen eye out for it, it tends to still be flying around until August.

The grown male has a bright blue tummy with black patches while females and young males have an orange abdomen.

Emperor dragonfly

The emperor is as big as you would expect, in fact it's one of the biggest dragonflies in Europe. It averages at 78 millimetres (3.1 inches) in length. The male is turqouise blue, the female green and neither, unlike other hawkers, have spots to separate the colour.

emporer dragonfly

Emporer dragonfly

Slow running rivers, like the Cam, are a favourite habitat so you may catch a glimpse of one at Wicken. Although they're a nervy beast and will disappear as soon as you come near.

It's also one of the most powerful dragonflies and is capable of catching and eating smaller dragonflies and butterflies.

There ae 21 species at Wicken Fen in total, you can see the full list on their website.

last updated: 21/08/2009 at 13:44
created: 22/07/2009

You are in: Cambridgeshire > Nature > Nature Features > Dragonfly hunting in Wicken Fen

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