Click on images to enlarge
Flight period: May to July (occasionally in April, August and early September)
The White-faced Darter is a small dark dragonfly, with a pale creamy white frons. The wings have small black patches at the base and dark brown pterostigma.
Male: narrow black abdomen, marked with red and orange on the dorsal and lateral segments. The thorax is black with faint red antehumeral stripes and lateral markings.
Female: patterned like the male but yellow replaces the red markings.
The White Faced Darter is a species of lowland peatbogs. It requires relatively deep, oligotrophic, acidic bog pools with considerable rafts of Sphagnum at the edges in which to breed. Larvae also occur among waterlogged Sphagnum in depressions devoid of standing water. The larvae live within the matrix of submerged and floating sphagnum and are confined to waters without fish. Away from its aquatic habitat it also requires scrub or woodland, which provides important roosting and feeding sites.
White-faced Darter habitat at Chartley Moss © Colin Hayes
Status & Distribution
In Britain the White-faced Darter is a rare dragonfly having declined, notably in England, in the last 35 years. It is the subject of Biodiversity Action Plans in Cheshire and Cumbria.
In Britain the White-faced Darter is found at isolated sites from the Midlands to north Scotland and Chartley Moss is currently the most southerly distribution in the UK. Major strongholds for the species occur in the highlands of Scotland. The populations in both Inverness-shire and Ross-shire are particularly important.
The White-faced Darter can be confused with the Black Darter. However, the flight periods of these two species usually only overlap for a very short period, making identification easier, but specimens should be examined in the hand to confirm a positive identification.
The White-faced Darter usually begins to emerge in the middle of May and can be seen on the wing until the end of July or early August.
The main threats to this species come from habitat destruction and fragmentation, removal of Sphagnum Moss, Succession, changes in site hydrology, pollution and eutrophication, predation, climate change, and the impact of people visiting inhabited sites.
General management principles include maintenance of the lowland peatland habitat, control of scrub encroachment, and maintenance of both the water quality and quantity. Best practice guidelines have also been suggested for management of inhabited sites, focusing on the control of scrub and management of the aquatic vegetation within bog pools. Habitat creation and restoration should be considered as an option where possible.