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Scotland’s own Golden Ringed Dragonfly

Posted on Jul 29, 2013 by Jonathan Willet

Scotland’s own Golden Ringed Dragonfly is the one most commonly encountered when out and about on the hills in Scotland. It is unmistakable due to its black and yellow colouring and its slightly down-curved abdomen. Though its seems much bigger in flight the insect is only 8cm long and has a wingspan of around 10cm. Unlike other dragonflies it is often seen far away from standing water. It travels long distances to forage and can even be seen at the tops of Munros on warm days!

The Golden-ringed Dragonfly, or GRD for short, breeds in shallow peat runnels or seepages as well as lochs with exposed peaty muddy edges or even slow flowing burns and rivers. The female has a unique egg laying style. Most dragonflies either lay their eggs on floating vegetation or flick their eggs ontop the surface of the water but the GRD female hovers vertically and uses the pointed end of her abdomen to stab down into the soft peat or mud and releases and egg each time. If you are lucky enough to see this, the female looks like the needle on a sewing machine going up and down. Usually the dry rustle of her wings against the vegetation is a clue to this behaviour happening. The picture shows a pair of GRDs mating, this is called the “wheel position”.

GRD mating

Males are easier to spot as when not feeding they tends to patrol a stretch of water (or mud) looking for females. The larval stages last from 2-5 years with the adult living on average for only about 3 weeks, but maybe a few months if the weather stays settled. Starvation is the main cause of death once these insects reach maturity. GRDs and dragonflies in general feed on insects the same size and smaller than them. So you can see them catching moths or butterflies but usually smaller insects. They spot the insects with their large eyes and use their legs as a catching basket and then consume their prey on the wing or once landed. GRDs will perch quite often on heather or Bracken so you can get a good look at them either with binoculars or if you are stealthy, with the naked eye. They don’t sting even though they have wasp-like colouration. They are in the wing until September so plenty of time to spot one.

About the author

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Jonathan Willet

Jonathan has a wealth of experience in biodiversity, history and landscape. With degrees in zoology and ecology and 20+ years as a wildlife guide, his regular blogs are always packed full of informational gems.

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