Black-tailed skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum

Best time to see: late May to early Aug

Key facts

A fast, highly active dragonfly often seen perched on open ground or on dead trees

Habitat: shallow ponds, lakes, slow rivers, sometimes marshes; early coloniser of gravel pits

Common in southern England, parts of Wales and central Ireland


Black-tipped blue abdomen in males, yellow with black bands in females; clear wings

Active species, often seen flying low and fast over open ground or tracks, perching on banks, roads, dead trees and, if warm, plants

Flies from late May to early August, feeding mainly on large insects such as butterflies, grasshoppers or damselflies


Females lay groups of eggs in jelly into the water so they stick to submerged plants, guarded by the male

Larvae live partly or completely buried in bottom debris, developing in 2–3 years

Larvae climb out of the water in the early morning from May onwards to emerge, sometimes travelling yards from the water

© Pat Allen

© Tony Gunton