There are 57 recorded species of Odonata in Britain, made up of 21 damselflies (suborder Zygoptera) and 36 dragonflies (suborder Anisoptera). Of these, 42 species (17 damselflies and 25 dragonflies) are resident breeders, and the remainder are either extinct species, or vagrants - in respect of the latter, this list follows the decisions of the Odonata Records Committee.

Some of these rare species have not been seen since the 19th Century; however, the British Odonata list is also currently undergoing a period of unprecedented change, as new species are being discovered for the first time, some going on to become breeding species.

This list is based on the following principal references:

A number of other references were used to provide information on specific topics, including rare vagrants, post-1990 additions, predictions, species claimed but not accepted / species of uncertain provenance, non-natives, taxonomic matters and species found only in the Channel Islands.

Ireland's Odonata fauna is quite different from that of Britain, with many fewer breeding species, but one additional species not found in Britain, Irish Damselfly Coenagrion lunulatum – see List of Odonata species of Ireland for more information.

New species since 1990

After a period in which the British Odonata list has been relatively static, since 1990, many new species have been found and some have gone on to become regular breeding species. In chronological order of their first record, these new species are:

Many British Odonata enthusiasts expect further species to be added to the list in the near future. The list below is up to date as of the end of the 2005 breeding season.

Extinct species and casual breeders

While most species on the list below are either extant established breeding species or rare vagrants, some do not fall into these two categories. The following species bred in the past but are now extinct:

The following species are sporadic or casual breeders:

Non-native introductions

Records of non-native Odonata species in Britain have been confined to individuals found within heated greenhouses associated with nurseries for aquatic plants. None of these species have been recorded in wild situations or gone on to establish populations in the wild. Details of species which have occurred in such circumstances can be found in Agassiz 1981,[17] Brooks 1988 [18] and Parr 2000a.[3]

The list

The list is in taxonomic order. The English name of each species is given, followed by its scientific name, details of the range countries for each breeding species, and an overall status code for species which are not long-established extant breeding species.

The following abbreviations are used to give country-by-country distribution information for the breeding species:

The following codes are used to give status details for those species which are not long-established extant breeding species:

Suborder Zygoptera (Damselflies)

Family Calopterygidae (Demoiselles)

Banded demoiselle
Beautiful Demoiselle
Species Scientific Name Range Countries Status Code
Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens Eng/Scot/Wales
Beautiful Demoiselle Calopteryx virgo Eng/Scot/Wales

Family Lestidae (Emerald damselflies)

Species Scientific Name Range Countries Status Code
Willow Emerald Damselfly [A] Chalcolestes viridis V (1899)

RC (2007)

Scarce Emerald Damselfly Lestes dryas Eng
Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa Eng/Scot/Wales
Southern Emerald Damselfly Lestes barbarus Eng V (2002)
Common Winter Damselfly Sympecma fusca V (2008)

Family Coenagrionidae (Blue, blue-tailed & red damselflies)

Azure Damselfly male
Small Red Damselfly
Large Red Damselfly male
Red-eyed damselfly male
Blue-tailed Damselfly female
Species Scientific Name Range Countries Status Code
Small Red Damselfly Ceriagrion tenellum Eng/Wales
Norfolk Damselfly Coenagrion armatum Ex (1957)
Northern Damselfly Coenagrion hastulatum Scot
Southern Damselfly Coenagrion mercuriale Eng/Wales
Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella Eng/Scot/Wales
Variable Damselfly Coenagrion pulchellum Eng/Scot/Wales
Dainty Damselfly Coenagrion scitulum Eng RC (2010)
Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum Eng/Scot/Wales
Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma najas Eng/Wales
Small Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma viridulum Eng RC (1999)
Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans Eng/Scot/Wales
Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura pumilio Eng/Wales
Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula Eng/Scot/Wales

Family Platycnemididae (White-legged damselflies)

Species Scientific Name Range Countries Status Code
White-legged Damselfly Platycnemis pennipes Eng/Wales

Suborder Anisoptera (Dragonflies)

Family Gomphidae (Club-tailed Dragonflies)

Species Scientific Name Range Countries Status Code
Common Clubtail [B] Gomphus vulgatissimus Eng/Wales
Yellow-legged Dragonfly [C] Gomphus flavipes V (1818)

Family Aeshnidae (Hawkers and Emperors)

Common Hawker
Common Hawker
Species Scientific Name Range Countries Status Code
Southern Hawker Aeshna cyanea Eng/Scot/Wales
Brown Hawker Aeshna grandis Eng/Wales
Norfolk Hawker Aeshna isosceles Eng[K]
Azure Hawker Aeshna caerulea Scot
Common Hawker Aeshna juncea Eng/Scot/Wales
Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta Eng/Wales
Southern Migrant Hawker [D] Aeshna affinis V (1952)

?RC (2012)

Emperor Anax imperator Eng/Wales
Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope Eng RC (1996)
Green Darner Anax junius V (1998)
Hairy Dragonfly Brachytron pratense Eng/Scot/Wales
Vagrant Emperor [E] Hemianax ephippiger V (1903)

Family Cordulegastridae (Golden-ringed Dragonflies)

Golden-ringed Dragonfly
Golden-ringed Dragonfly
Species Scientific Name Range Countries Status Code
Golden-ringed Dragonfly Cordulegaster boltonii Eng/Scot/Wales

Family Corduliidae (Emerald dragonflies)

Species Scientific Name Range Countries Status Code
Downy Emerald Cordulia aenea Eng/Scot/Wales
Brilliant Emerald Somatochlora metallica Eng/Scot
Yellow-spotted Emerald Somatochlora flavomaculata V (2018)
Northern Emerald Somatochlora arctica Scot
Orange-spotted Emerald Oxygastra curtisii Ex (1963)

Family Libellulidae (Chasers, Skimmers and Darters)

Broad-bodied Chaser
Four-spotted Chaser
Black-tailed Skimmer
Common Darter
Species Scientific Name Range Countries Status Code
Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa Eng/Wales
Scarce Chaser Libellula fulva Eng
Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata Eng/Scot/Wales
Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum Eng/Wales
Keeled Skimmer Orthetrum coerulescens Eng/Scot/Wales
Scarlet Dragonfly Crocothemis erythraea V (1995)
Black Darter Sympetrum danae Eng/Scot/Wales
Yellow-winged Darter [F] Sympetrum flaveolum V
Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombei Eng RC
Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum Eng/Wales
Common Darter [G] Sympetrum striolatum Eng/Scot/Wales
Highland Darter [G] Sympetrum striolatum nigrescens Scot
Vagrant Darter Sympetrum vulgatum V
Banded Darter Sympetrum pedemontanum V (1995)
White-faced Darter Leucorrhinia dubia Eng/Scot/Wales
Large White-faced Darter [H] Leucorrhinia pectoralis V (1859)
Wandering Glider [I] [J] Pantala flavescens V (1823)


A Willow Emerald Damselfly, since 2007 this species is established and spreading in south-east England, especially Suffolk and Essex. It was previously only known from a single record from Hertfordshire in 1899 (although this record is based on a specimen regarded by some as perhaps not of British origin, see Gladwin 1997 [19]) and a single exuvia collected in Kent in 1992 (Brook & Brook 2002,[20] 2004 [21]).
B Common Clubtail was formerly known as Club-tailed Dragonfly.
C Yellow-legged Dragonfly is known from just a single record, in Sussex in 1818.
D Southern Migrant Hawker was known from just a single record, in Kent in 1952, although an Aeshna seen in 1992 on the outskirts of Bristol may have been this species (Holmes 1993 [22]), and the species has been recorded twice in Jersey since 1998 (Long 2000,[23] Parr 2005 [24]). However in 2006 four specimens were seen: In the Adur valley in West Sussex on 13 July website of reporter with photo; Grimstone Warren, Norfolk on 21 July; Little Wootton Inclosure New Forest (SZ 227 987) on 6 August; And at the mouth of the Beaulieu River in Hampshire on 10 August. Since 2012 it has probably become established as a breeding species in the Thames Estuary area.
E Vagrant Emperor records taken from Silsby (1993).[25]
F Yellow-winged Darter is listed as a vagrant, but is occasionally subject to large influxes e.g. in 1995.
G Highland Darter and Common Darter may be conspecific (see Merritt & Vick 1983 [26]).
H Large White-faced Darter has been recorded only once, at Sheerness, Kent in 1859.
I Wandering Glider has been recorded only three times – at Horning, Norfolk in 1823, Bolton, Lancashire in 1951 and in Kent in 1989, although the two 20th Century records may result from accidental introductions.
J Wandering Glider was formerly known as Globe Skimmer.
K Habitat limited to Eastern England and particularly East Anglia.

Rejected species, species of uncertain provenance, predictions and Channel Islands species

1. The following species have been claimed but not accepted by the Odonata Records Committee:

2. The following species have been recorded, and their identification accepted, but the circumstances surrounding the records and/or specimens cast doubt on their natural occurrence, and they are not included in the official British list:

  • Blue Dasher Pachydiplax longipennis, which was found dead on the Sedco 706 oil rig in the North Sea off the Shetland Isles in early September 1999 (Parr 2000b [28]). It was not accepted as the species is not a strong migrant and the rig receives weekly supplies from Texas.
  • Alpine Emerald Somatochlora alpestris, only known from a single specimen labelled as having been collected by K. J. Morton in Inverness in 1926; however Morton was travelling in continental Europe on the date in question.

3. The following is a list of species which have previously been predicted to occur in Britain but have not yet been recorded (see Merritt, Moore & Eversham 1996 [1] pp. 113–114 and Parr 1998,[29] 1999 [30]): Subarctic Darner Aeshna subarctica, Northern White-faced Darter Leucorrhina rubicunda and Small Emerald Damselfly Lestes virens.

4. In addition to the species listed above, Southern Skimmer Orthetrum brunneum and Southern Darter Sympetrum meridionale have been recorded in the Channel Islands (Parr 2000a).[3]


  1. ^ a b Merritt, R.; N. W. Moore; B. C. Eversham (1996). Atlas of the dragonflies of Britain and Ireland. HMSO.
  2. ^ Parr, A. J. (1996). "Dragonfly movement and migration in Britain and Ireland". Journal of the British Dragonfly Society. 12 (2): 33–50.
  3. ^ a b c Parr, Adrian (2000a). "An Annotated List of the Odonata of Britain and Ireland". Atropos (11): 10–20.
  4. ^ Jones, Steven P. (1996). "The first British record of the Scarlet Dragonfly Crocothemis erythraea (Brullé)". Journal of the British Dragonfly Society. 12 (1): 11–12.
  5. ^ Phillips, John (1997a). "The Lesser Emperor Dragonfly Anax parthenope in Gloucestershire; The First British Record". Atropos (2): 40–41.
  6. ^ Phillips, John (1997b). "Lesser Emperor Dragonfly Anax parthenope (Sélys) in Gloucestershire; the first British record". Journal of the British Dragonfly Society. 13 (1): 22–24.
  7. ^ Jones, Steven P. (2000). "First proof of successful breeding by the Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope (Sélys) in Britain". Journal of the British Dragonfly Society. 16 (1): 20–23.
  8. ^ Pellow, Keith (2000). "Lesser Emperor Dragonfly Anax parthenope (Selys) breeding in Cornwall". Atropos (9): 28–29.
  9. ^ Pellow, Keith (1999a). "An influx of Green Darner Anax junius (Drury) into Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – The First European Records". Atropos (6): 3–7.
  10. ^ Pellow, Keith (1999b). "Common Green Darner Anax junius (Drury) in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly – The first British and European Records". Journal of the British Dragonfly Society. 15 (1): 21–22.
  11. ^ Dewick, Stephen; Richard Gerussi (2000). "Small Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma viridulum (Charpentier) Found Breeding in Essex – The First British Records". Atropos (9): 3–4.
  12. ^ Nobes, Geoff (2003). "Southern Emerald Damselfly Lestes barbarus (Fabr.) – The First British Record". Atropos (18): 3–6.
  13. ^ Forrest, P. J. (2005). "Southern Emerald Damselfly Lestes barbarus (Fabr.) at Sandwich Bay, Kent". Atropos (24): 24–25.
  14. ^ "Winter Damselfly Sympecma fusca". British Dragonfly Society. Archived from the original on 16 March 2014. Retrieved 15 March 2014.
  15. ^ "New Dragonfly Species for Britain". British Dragonfly Society. 11 July 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  16. ^ "Beautiful 'lost' insect turns up anew in UK". BBC News. 21 July 2010.
  17. ^ Agassiz, D (1981). "Further introduced china mark moths (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) new to Britain". Entomologist's Gazette. 32: 21–26.
  18. ^ Brooks, S. J. (1988). "Exotic dragonflies in north London". Journal of the British Dragonfly Society. 4 (1): 9–12.
  19. ^ Gladwin, T.W. (1997). "The error in treating the Green Emerald Damselfly Lestes viridis (Vander Linden) as a British species". Journal of the British Dragonfly Society. 13 (2): 50–51.
  20. ^ Brook, John; Gill Brook (2003). "The Willow Emerald Damselfly Chalcolestes viridis (Vander Linden) in Kent: a case of mistaken identity". Journal of the British Dragonfly Society. 19 (1&2): 51–54.
  21. ^ Brook, John; Gill Brook (2004). "Past breeding evidence of Willow Emerald Damselfly Chalcolestes viridis (Vander Linden) in Kent". Atropos (21): 3–5.
  22. ^ Holmes, J. D. (1993). "A possible sighting of Aeshna affinis in Avon". Journal of the British Dragonfly Society. 9: 17–18.
  23. ^ Long, Roger (2000). "Southern Migrant Hawker Aeshna affinis in Jersey, Channel Islands". Atropos (9): 81.
  24. ^ Parr, Adrian (2005). "Odonata Records Committee update". Atropos (26): 28.
  25. ^ Silsby, J. (1993). "A review of Hemianax ephippiger, the Vagrant Emperor". Journal of the British Dragonfly Society. 9 (2): 47–50.
  26. ^ Merritt, R.; G. S. Vick (1983). "Is Sympetrum nigrescens a good species?". Journal of the British Dragonfly Society. 1 (1): 7–8.
  27. ^ Parr, Adrian (2003). "Migrant Dragonflies in 2002". Atropos (18): 18–24.
  28. ^ Parr, Adrian (2000b). "Blue Dasher Pachydiplax longipennis (Burmeister) on an Oil Rig in the North Sea". Atropos (10): 3–5.
  29. ^ Parr, Adrian (1998). "Potential New Odonata for the British List 1. The Possible Occurrence of Nearctic Species in Western Europe". Atropos (4): 18–21.
  30. ^ Parr, Adrian (1999). "Potential New Odonata for the British List 2. The Possibility of Vagrant or Colonist Damselflies". Atropos (8): 21–25.