This is the perfect time of year to look for chaser dragonflies around our heathland pools.

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.

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.

Recently emerged four-spotted chaser with its exuvia nearby. Photo by Phil Thornton.

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.

Photo by Graham Osborne

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.

 See a four-spotted chaser dragonfly: Black pond on the wooded heathland trail is a great place to look for these incredible creatures.

‘Heathland heroes’ is a series of blogs celebrating some of the fascinating creatures that we find on our wooded heathland. Lowland heathland is an incredibly rare habitat; less than 1% of England’s area is lowland heathland. Just 16% of the heathland that existed in the UK in 1800 is left, so what is left is incredibly precious.

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