Mating willow emerald damselflies. Photo: Neil Bowman/Alamy

Ferndown, UK (BBN) – A male scarlet darter – the species was seen in the UK for the first time in 13 years.

Record numbers of rare migrant dragonflies have been spotted in the UK this year, according to an analysis by volunteers from the Migrant Dragonfly Project, reports The Guardian.

The study recorded the first confirmed UK sighting of the scarlet darter for 13 years, at Longham Lakes in Dorset. It is only the eighth time this species has been spotted in Britain.

Volunteers also recorded the second largest ever immigration of red-veined darters into the UK, and there have been multiple influxes of both vagrant emperor and lesser emperor dragonflies.
Eleanor Colver, conservation officer for the British Dragonfly Society, said: “we are currently seeing major shifts in the range of dragonfly species on a global scale, not just in the UK.”

She added: “Dragonflies, like all insects, cannot regulate their body temperature like humans, so are highly sensitive to small changes in environmental temperature. As a result, we believe that some of the changes we are witnessing in our local dragonflies are their response to the ongoing global warming.”
Adrian Parr, co-ordinator of the Migrant Dragonfly Project, said the record number in the UK was helped by warm weather and southerly winds in spring and early summer as well as good breeding conditions in the traditional dragonfly homelands in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
“Unlike the situation with birds, whose migrations are well-known, our understanding of insect (and particularly dragonfly) migration is still in its infancy,” said Parr. “It is clearly, however, an important phenomenon, and one that tells us a lot about the living world.”
Parr said scarlet darters are usually found across central Europe, Africa, the Middle East and western Asia and that they are “one of the most generalist dragonfly species, able to live in a variety of standing-water habitats, ranging from brackish pools to freshwater ditches.”
According to the project, Britain has been colonised by four new species of dragonfly in the past 20 years, including the willow emerald damselfly and small red-eyed damselfly, and seen the return of the dainty damselfly, which had last been seen in 1953.