Libellula depressa - Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly

Phylum: Arthropoda - Class: Insecta - Order: Odonata - Family: Libellulidae

Male broad-bodied chaser

The Broad-bodied Chaser is quite common in southern England and Wales, where it is most commonly seen flying over ponds and canals or resting on a waterside perch from which it can survey its surroundings for potential meals. The main food source of these lovely dragonflies is small insects.

The mature male pictured above is perched beside our garden pond in West Wales. The male has a pale blue abdomen, while the abdomen of the female (see below) is brown with two yellow stripes.

A female broad-bodied chaser laying eggs

Both the male and female have brown triangular patches at the bases of all four wings.

This is one of the larger dragonflies that make use of garden ponds. (We see Broad-bodied Chasers hunting over our own garden pond all through the summer months, and we have small canes inserted in the grass beside the pool so that these lovely dragonflies can perch there while eating one meal or looking out for the next.

Broad-bodied Chasers can be seen on the wing in Britain from mid May until late August or early September.

Mating usually takes place in the air, and the femalelays her eggs in weedy margins of ponds, lakes and canals, jabbing their ovipositors into the water repeatedly (see picture above) while the male guards her by hovering close by.

Female broad-bodied chaser at rest

The eggs hatch after about two weeks and the brown, hair-fringed nymphs (also referred to as naiads) live in the water for at least a year or, in some instances for as much as two or even three years, depending on water temperature and food availability.

When fully grown, in late spring or early summer the nymphs leave the water by climbing up emergent vegetation or partly-submerged twigs, and then the lovely winged adults shed a final skin (known as the exuvia) and dry their wings before taking their maiden flights.

As adults, Broad-bodied Chasers do not live as long as some of the other large dragonflies - the Aeschnids, for example. In Britain they live as winged adults for no longer than about four weeks.

Small insects such as gnats, midges and mosquitoes make up the bulk of the diet of adult Broad-bodied Chasers. When tit catches anything other than a tiny insect - a Pond Olive or even a Common Blue Damselfly for example - the Broad-bodied Chaser takes its prey back to a waterside perch; there it eats the body and discards the wings. Beneath a much-used perch beside a garden pond, you are likely to find a substantial pile of wings. If you know enough about aquatic insects you may be able to identify their deceased owners, at least to genus level, and so learn more about the diet of the dragonfly and, of course, about the other insects that inhabit or visit your garden pond.

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