Four-spotted Chaser - Libellula quadrimaculata

Adult size

Overall length: 44 - 48mm   Hindwing length: 32 - 40mm

Distinguishing features

One of Britain’s commonest dragonflies found in many still water sites including garden ponds. Has four distinctive ‘spots’ on both wings and a distinctive tapering body. Sexes are virtually identical.  


Mature males - for help with terms see glossary

Four -spot chasers have very distinctive tapering bodies unlike any other dragonfly. They have an orange brown abdomen which becomes black at the base. When viewed from the side there are bright yellow markings running down the side of the abdomen. Wings have orange-yellow markings extending to the tips and dark patches on the hind wings. Each wing has 4 dark ‘spots. The thorax and eyes are orange-brown. In the colour form praenubila the dark spots are enlarged and give the wings a darker appearance. As they mature both males and females turn darker and all the orange-brown colours of the abdomen, thorax and eyes become a dirty olive-brown.

Immature males

Very young males are pale versions of adults with straw coloured abdomen, thorax with brown eyes, the spots have not yet developed on the wings.

Mature females

Resemble the males as above, their bodies are slightly broader and their anal appendages hang straight down.

Immature females

See description of immature male.


Occurs in a wide range of still water habitats and can tolerate a range of conditions including acidic and brackish waters. Often associated with heathland and moorland but will also be found in garden ponds. A rapid coloniser of new sites.


Four-spotted Chaser males are extremely aggressive and will actively defend a small pond or patch within a larger pond chasing away other males and other species. The males will repeated use the same perch, the stem of reed for example and are very easily approached. For unfortunate females they can often be pursued by more than one male at a time when they come to water to breed. Both sexes will fly away from water to hunt and will often be encountered on open heathland.

Status and distribution

Very common throughout Britain except the north east. Common and widespread in Dorset especially on heathland sites.

Flight period

Main flight period is April to September, peaking between June and July.

Similar species

The brown-black tapering abdomen and 4 ‘spot’ pattern on the wings make this quite difficult to confuse with other species. The colours of female Broad-bodied Chaser and Scarce Chaser may look similar though body shapes are very different in these two species.

More photographs

Click on the photos below to enlarge...


Mature Male

Mature Female

Mature Male praenubila form

Mature Female praenubila form

All photographs by kind permission & © of Ken Dolbear unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.