Dragonfly: the broad-bodied chaser

David Chapman

Writer and photographer, David Chapman, introduces us to a species of dragonfly often found near garden ponds



If you delve into your pond at any time of year you may find the larvae of dragonflies. When seen in close up these larvae look quite scary and it is because they resemble dragons that the family was named. A dragonfly larva can do us no harm at all but each one will consume many other creatures in our ponds before reaching maturity at two or three years of age.

It is at this point that dragonfly larvae undertake one of the most remarkable transformations of any living creature. The metamorphosis from underwater larva to free-flying insect is fraught with difficulty but we know from fossil evidence that this is a step which has been taken by countless creatures for at least the last 200 million years. In those days there were dragonflies with a wingspan of 60cm, now we have to content ourselves which much smaller species of about one tenth of that size.

One of the commonest dragonflies to be found around garden ponds is the broad-bodied chaser. In keeping with its name this species does have a broad body so looks quite stocky. The males have a powder blue abdomen while the females are yellow or brownish and both have yellow spots along their sides. This dragonfly is on the wing between late May and early August and is found most frequently in the southern half of Britain. It favours newly-created ponds, often shunning those which are over-vegetated; though clearing out a pond and some of the bank can attract them back again.

The male broad-bodied chaser is a territorial creature often perching in open places adjacent to a pond; if another male approaches then it launches into the insect equivalent of an airborne dogfight. In calmer times the males regularly patrol their territory by flying around its edge, looking for prey or females before usually returning to the same perch.

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