Brachytron pratense (Müller, 1764)
Status in Britain and Ireland:
scarce and local, but increasing
Overall body length 54-63mm
Hindwing length 34-37mm
Early May to end of June (may extend into early July)
Photograph © B. Kemp
Male Hairy Dragonfly
The abdomen is black with paired blue ‘pear shaped’ spots on each segment. The base of the abdomen is not waisted as in other male hawkers and the anal appendages are noticeably long. The thorax is very hairy and has apple green sides with 3 oblique black lines. Broad greenish-yellow tapering antehumeral stripes are clearly visible on top of the thorax. The wings are clear and have distinctive long narrow brown pterostigma. The eyes are blue and legs are black.
Photograph © V. Perrin
Female Hairy Dragonfly
The abdominal pattern is similar to the male but the colouring is yellow. The anal appendages are long. Antehumeral stripes on the thorax are reduced to small yellow spots. Both the thorax and abdomen are hairy and the wings are suffused with yellow at the base.
This species is smaller though similar in appearance to some other hawkers. Confusion is however unlikely due to the early and short flight period of this species from May- June. In Shropshire, similar hawkers such as Southern, Common and Migrant Hawker fly really from July onwards. In addition, this species is a real rarity in the county. Emperor dragonfly can be seen from late May, but is much larger and has a solid green thorax and an obvious black dorsal stripe running down the abdomen.
Males can be seen patrolling low down amongst waterside vegetation guarding their territory from other males. Females only come to the water to breed. Mating generally takes place amongst shrubs or waterside vegetation after which the female oviposits into floating aquatic vegetation and is usually attended by the male.
Prefers ditches and canals that are well vegetated but can also be found on ponds.
Apart from one vague record (Grid Reference SO47) made in 1978, Hairy Dragonfly until recently had only 2 records made in the year 2000. These sightings were in very close proximity in south Shropshire at Malpass Wood and Neenshill Coppice in the Wyre Forest and there may be a duplication here of the same record. In July, 2013 however a male was recorded at Whixall Moss and observed for a good time both perched and feeding. This is late in the year for this species as it is typically the first hawker dragonfly on the wing in mid-May. Then in 2020 Hairy Dragonfly was recorded on May 28th in the Wyre Forest near Button Oak. 17 records were also made in Worcestershire in 2020 so this is definitely a species to bear in mind in SE Shropshire. May 2022 also brought a further possible sighting at Whixall Moss though this is unconfirmed.
Where to see in Shropshire
Observations from mid- May at Whixall Moss and other suitable areas in the county. Also worth keeping an eye in areas of the Wyre Forest, SE Shropshire.