Four-spotted chaser dragonfly by Graham Osborne

Much of the four-spotted chaser’s life is spent hidden in the murky depths of the heathland pond. Around four weeks the after the female has laid her eggs the larvae hatch taking a minimum of two years in larval form to complete their development. The larvae are ambush predators, covered in numerous hair-like structures which trap debris, they are well camouflaged hiding among vegetation or burrowed into the sediment waiting to capture their prey. When they are threatened by predators, they remain still, and with their accumulated debris attached they look like they’ve been dead for a while.

Emerging four-spotted chaser by Pete Hughes

When the larvae mature and the environmental conditions are right, they climb out of the water onto vegetation at the water's edge and emerge as adults. These dragonflies are on the wing mid-April to early September, with the peak being in late May.

Both sexes of the four-spotted chaser are golden-brown, getting darker towards the tip of the body, and with yellow spots along the sides. Two dark spots at the front edge of each wing give this dragonfly its name and an easily recognisable appearance.

Males are highly territorial and will defend large areas, often entire pools, from competitors by flying sorties from a prominent perch in the pond. They mate on the wing; the female then hovers over the water, dipping the tip of her abdomen into drop her eggs on to vegetation below the surface.

Black Pond, on the heathland trail just by the public footpath, is a great place to watch dragonflies and damselflies. This year, the action has been delayed a little by the cold and wet spring but the pond is now coming to life! 

Heathlands Reunited: This is part of a series of blogs introducing some of the fascinating creatures we find on our heathlands. They'll all be featuring on our newly interpreted trail on the heath created as part of the Heathlands Reunited Project. This partnership project, led by the South Downs National Park Authority aims to restore and reconnect the precious heathland habitat across the National Park.

Anonymous