Description male female larva Irish distribution

Orthetrum cancellatum

Orthetrum cancellatum (Linnaeus, 1758)


Common name: Black-tailed Skimmer

Preferred environment: lowland pools and lakes with shallow margins and areas of bare shore. Often in artificial sites including gravel pits. Most common in early successional stage, decreasing as plant cover increases. In Ireland especially associated with mesotrophic calcareous lakes and lakes in sand dune systems.

Flight period: end of April to the end of August. In Ireland beginning of June to mid August.

Adult habitat and habits: at sites in Ireland adults seen especially on bare sand created by rabbit scrapes and bare limestone rocks. At breeding sites males hold territory around perch on ground or low vegetation near on water's edge, aggressively attacking other males. Also patrol over open water. Approaching females are seized and brief copulation ensues. Feed from perches taking large prey items including grasshoppers (Orthoptera), damselflies (Zygoptera) and butterflies (Lepidoptera).

Oviposition site and behaviour: females oviposits alone but with male in attendance. Eggs are laid in flight by dipping abdomen onto water surface.

Larval habitat and habits: live in bottom of pond partly buried in silt. Development takes 2-3 years.

Emergence behaviour: happens in early morning up to 10m away from habitat.

Range: southern and central Europe to southern Scandinavia; absent from most of extreme western Europe and most of Scandinavia; north Africa, Middle East and Asia east to Kashmir and Mongolia. In Ireland distribution is very localised centred on midland calcareous lakes especially in east Clare and Sligo. Also found in scattered localities east to Kildare and as far north as west Donegal. Recently recorded from Kerry.

Determination of adults: Askew (1988) which figures male accessory genitalia.

Determination of larvae: keys to mature larvae in Askew (1988) and Brooks (1997). Photograph of mature larva in Brooks (1997).


Nelson, B., Thompson, R. & Morrow, C., 2000 (May 2). [In] DragonflyIreland http://www.ulstermuseum.org.uk/dragonflyireland/


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